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The Petit Manseng Grape


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About Petit Manseng

(Synonyms: Escriberou, Ichiriota Zuria Tipia, Mansein, Mansein Blanc, Manseing, Mansenc Blanc, Mansenc Grisroux, Manseng Blanc, Manseng Petit Blanc, Mansengou, Mansic, Mansin, Mausec, Mausenc Blanc, Miot, Petit Mansenc, Petit Manseng Blanc.)

Background

Map showing the Jurancon area

Petit Manseng is a white-wine grape originating in southwest France; while it populates that entire region now, it is thought to have begun in Jurançon. It is generally considered one of the dozen and a half or so of world-class red-wine grapes (those in boldface in the varietals list to the left of the page), but almost entirely because of its role in the classic dessert-wine blends of the region. It is only rarely bottled as a monovarietal, or even dominating ingredient of a blend, except as sweet wine.

Petit Manseng grapes are naturally very high in sugar. If they are grown to anything like ripeness (as they must be for the wanted flavor), they simply cannot be vinified "dry", else their alcohol content would reach the 16% to 17% range. Thus, vinification is stopped when the alcohol is at an acceptable level, leaving substantial residual sugars and a wine that can only be a dessert wine (or a component of one), though it does have quite high acid levels (which help to partially neutralize the sensation of sweetness).

Petit Manseng is typically associated in such sweet wines with a few other regional-specialty grapes, notably the supposedly less "refined" Gros Manseng, Petit Courbo, and (in Pacherenc du Vic Bihl but not in Jurançon) Arrufiac. There are now plantings in the U.S. and Australia, whose winemakers are doubtless noticing the worldwide trend toward even more sweet wines, at least in mass consumption. At least some U.S. winemakers (the grape is especially popular in Virginia) now produce monovarietal bottlings, and some claim that the acid content leaves a sensory impression of less sweetness than their sugar content implies. (The relatively new "Jurançon sec" wines are typically mostly or entirely Gros Manseng.)

The flavor of Petit Manseng is typically described in the terms usual in wine writing for rich whites. Alphabetically: apricot, baked apples, baked pear, beeswax, brown sugar, cinnamon, citrus peel, green apple, honey, honeysuckle flower, lemon curd, lemon marmalade, melon, mint leaves, orange marmalade, pineapple, popcorn [sic], ripe grapefruit, roasted almonds, ruby grapefruit, walnuts, white peach, and last but not least the inevitable "touch of stony minerality". We reckon you get the idea. (Wouldn't you like to be a wine writer when you grow up? And learn the difference between just plain grapefruit in wine flavors and ruby grapefruit?) All of which can be summed in Isaac James Baker's terse but sufficient "zippy acid and gobs of tropical fruit".

Factoid: Petit Manseng is noted as the only wine used to baptize a king of France: Henry IV, the founder of the Bourbon dynasty, in his native Navarre.


Some Descriptions of Petit Manseng Wines


Some Petit Mansengs to Try

(About this list.)

There are very, very few actually dry (not "almost seems dry") monovarietal Petit Mansengs available, especially in the U.S. In fact, we found only one that seems decent, reasonably available, and not super-priced.

In Virginia, where the Petit Manseng grape has been widely adopted, most bottlings are sweet, but there are increasingly numerous dry (supposedly) ones, too; the problem is that they are (1) scarce, often available only from the winery, and (2) not inexpensive. If you want so search them out, a few names to look at are Horton, Granite Heights, Stonewall Creek ("Boriana"), Glen Manor, Ingleside, Prince Michel ("Mount Juliet"), and Chateau O'Brien

The quotations below are excerpts; we strenuously urge you to click on the green diamond symbol by each quoted review to see the full article.
Casale del Giglio Petit Manseng
(Lazio, Italy.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.


Some quotations and facts about this wine:

Who would have thought it? Here's a really satisfying dry white made from an indigenous Basque variety grown just north of Rome…To produce [this wine] the Petit Manseng berries with their thick skins are kept on the vine until well after most other grapes have been picked and, as in Jurançon vineyards, are encouraged to shrivel. Petit Manseng…keeps its acidity particularly well so this wine is much nervier than one would expect for the latitude. The grapes are given a bit of skin contact before spontaneous fermentations and the wine aged for a few months on the lees before bottling. It is still delightfully fresh and really offers some substance to chew on. I mean flavour – somehow attractively reminiscent of furniture polish – rather than astringency.

[Google-translated from Italian] Initially fruity aromas of yellow apple and then tropical papaya and similar to those of the aromatic Traminer, but then surprisingly turns with a final note of hay that reminds me of some greek tuff [sic]. Magic Petit Manseng grape variety can express a good level of acidity even at very ripe grapes. A full taste, what can be said of Petit Manseng Lazio IGT Casale del Giglio is that even in this case has a double face, warm and strong at the beginning…fresh on the finish that still maintains a good flavor.

[Google-translated from Italian] Golden color, nose reminiscent of the sweet tones mate achievements: yellow apple, pineapple and papaya in the first impact, then hazelnut cream, floral qualities and yellow tones cereal. And 'giallissimo in the mouth, of good structure and well integrated alcohol. It does malolactic (otherwise svaccherebbe) and drink, not very long, gains. It reminds me of some Falanghine flegrei but with less momentum acid. But 'I'm Petit Manseng, we need or do not need it?

Intense ripe fruits with aromas of lychee, peach and sweet pineapple. The palate has a wonderful freshness with hints of earl grey and a soft finish.

[Google-translated from Italian] The wine is made in black with short cold maceration (7-8 ° C) for 10-12 hours. The pressing is very slow and soft, so as to respect the fruit. 10-12 hours. Start spontaneous fermentation (to enhance the varietal characteristics and aromatic) with yeasts on the second day of fermentation. After 10 days, at the end of fermentation, the wine is poured and cooled to avoid malolactic fermentation. It is bottled after a long stay on the lees, in March and April. Tasting: It has a bright straw yellow, intensely fragrant, spicy and aromatic. It is fresh, fruity and well structured.

[Google-translated from Italian] Yellow STRAW bright, very intense aroma, Aromatic and spicy; taste fresh, very mineral, fruity, well-structured.

This wine is 100% Petit Manseng that was de-stemmed with fermentation started by indigenous yeasts followed by added yeasts 24 hours later. It was aged for several months on the lees. This is a pale straw color. The nose is a touch floral. In the mouth there are rich white fruits with a creamy mouthfeel. The fruit starts off a bit ripe mixed with dusty stone flavors before the wine firms up. There is a persistent almond-like flavor in the aftertaste which is supported by acidity.



For a Splurge

It's quite scarce and somewhat pricey, but it's also Hobson's Choice for an upscale dry Petit Manseng. It's the Dagueneau Les Jardins de Babylone Sec.

• That wine at 1000 Corks
• That wine at Wine Searcher
• Its Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.
• Its CellarTracker pages.

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