One of the traditional classic
black grape varieties approved for blending in
Bordeaux, winemakers generally use
the petit verdot grape as chefs would use seasoning.
contribution this grape adds to wine is dense fruit, dark
color, powerful flavors, and heavy tannins. This is a vinous
example of "a little goes a long way": too much petit
Verdot in a blend can make the entire wine seem coarse,
rustic, or unrefined.
Although the historical origin of this grape is yet undetermined, it is likely that the petit Verdot variety was planted in Bordeaux earlier than was cabernet sauvignon. Among
Medoc producers, Chateau Lagrange, in St. Julien,
has used the greatest proportion of petit verdot grapes
in their wine; even here, it is never more than 15%
of the total, and not used at all in some vintages. Another
variety, gros verdot, despite the nominal similarity,
is unrelated and has so few desirable characteristics
and such little regard that it has nearly disappeared
late-ripening, which limits usefulness
in the coolest areas and wherever the season is typically
short, petit verdot vines tend to be quite vigorous
at producing vegetation, yet inconsistent at producing fruit, and seem to be more sensitive to vintage
conditions than other varieties. For these reasons, petit verdot vines were
routinely replaced or abandoned by most Bordeaux producers
beginning in the mid-20th Century.
Planted in suitable climes
and properly cultivated,
fruit develops in relatively
small winged clusters, loosely filled with
round, dark red-to-black, relatively thick-skinned, berries.
With improvements in vineyard
techniques and a string of generally warmer vintages
in the decade that spanned the second millennial turn-of-the-century, petit
verdot has enjoyed a bit of a comeback in Bordeaux. Australia
now claims the largest total acreage of petit verdot
with increasing vineyards in the New World, particularly
California and Chile, and some experimental-size plantings
in a few other American states, Canada, and New Zealand.
Verdot is occasionally, but rarely, bottled anywhere as
a stand-alone varietal. Its almost too powerful
characteristics need moderating by blending with other grape types. In
fact, it is highly unusual to see this variety making up more than
6% of the total grape mix in wines produced anywhere
outside Bordeaux's Medoc.
Petit Verdot Smell and/or Flavor Descriptors
depends upon individual tasting ability and experience
and is also affected by terroir and seasonal conditions,
as well as viticultural and enological techniques,
so this list is neither comprehensive nor exclusive,
black fruits, blackberry
Oak (light): vanilla, coconut, sweet wood
shavings, molasses, tar
(heavy): oak, smoke, toast, tar
Age: cedar, cigar box
Although petit verdot is
of minor commercial application and the general trend is
to focus on the cultivars that are most popular and easiest-to-grow,
varietal diversity is crucial to both artisan wine making
and broad variety in the consumer marketplace.