Petit Verdot is a little red grape (although its name means little green) that originates in the Bordeaux region of France. Life hasn’t always been easy for this grape as it ripens much later than its other friends in Bordeaux, which means many years the entire harvest is lost. The late harvest would keep the tannins which would result in a bitter-tasting wine so it would only be added in tiny amounts to embolden the flavor of another wine. Because it only properly ripens about once every four years, France has more or less written it off as an irrelevant grape.
Initially, Petit Verdot was only used in red blends, particularly in Cabernet Sauvignon, but as it spread to the warmer climates of the New World, winemakers began to take an interest in its intense flavors and produce it as a single grape varietal.
Like most bold reds, it highlights dark fruits like blackberries, cherries, and plums but the unique part of the Petit Verdot is the intensely herbal and floral notes that present themselves. You’ll get strong aromas of violet and sage plus interesting notes of vanilla, spice, and coffee, depending on the aging barrel. This red wine screams for flavors of smoke and spice so it pairs incredibly well with grilled meats and bold cheeses like gouda or aged manchego. It’s also a great partner to very earthy vegetables like mushrooms, beans, and onions.
As for regions, Petit Verdot is still grown in France, however, only drink the ones made in Bordeaux’s Right Bank as that is still where it has the best shot at full ripening. The warmer climates of Italy and Australia have proven to be very successful in helping this grape achieve its best potential, and of course, California’s Central Coast and Napa Valley have made a great home for it as well.
Although Petit Verdot had a rough start back in the 1700s with its need for a longer season plus a rough battle with phylloxera, this little grape has made a come back in the last hundred years. As other countries outside of France have noticed its inky purple color and vibrantly rich color palate, it has begun popping up in many New World countries. If you’re looking for a new wine that will surprise you, try a Petit Verdot!
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