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The Petit Manseng Grape

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About Petit Manseng

(Synonyms: Izkiriot Ttipi, Iskiriota Zuri Tipia, Ichiriota Zuria Tipia, Manseng Petit Blanc, Mansenegou)


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 white-wine grapes, 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 Courbou, 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 any rate, 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, which is more manageable.)

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.

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Some Descriptions of Petit Manseng Wines

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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 none that seemed 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 supposedly dry ones, too; the problem is that they are (1) scarce, often available only from the winery, and (2) not inexpensive. If you want to 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

For a Splurge

Nothing avails.

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This page was last modified on Saturday, 30 October 2021, at 11:26 pm Pacific Time.