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Petit Verdot

by Staff Writer - B. Scottenberg | July 03, 2011

By tradition Petit Verdot is one of the black grape varieties that has been used as a blending wine, specifically in Bordeaux and Cabernet Sauvignon. The blend brings out a spicy and floral aroma. The aroma of a Petit Verdot includes smoke, leather and earth tones. It can also include flavors such as peppers, spices and minerals. A Petit Verdot is not recommended for those who enjoy a fruity wine because long aging in oak barrels usually fades the fruit flavors in the Petit Verdot wine.

Petit Verdot is occasionally, but rarely bottled anywhere as a stand-alone varietal without lessening its overwhelming characteristics by blending it with other grape varieties. It is rare to see the Petit Verdot variety making up much of the total grape mix in wines produced anywhere outside Bordeaux's Medoc (Medoc is located north of the town of Bordeaux, on the left bank of the Gironde). 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. Petit Verdot adds a deep dark color, strong flavors, heavy tannins and thick fruit to the wines they are blended with. It is best to go light handed with the Petit Verdot because if too much is added it can make the wine unrefined, course and harsh.

Petit Verdot is a red wine grape traditionally grown in France's Bordeaux valley. When it is ripe, the Petit Verdot grapes are small and black. Petit Verdot is rarely grown in quantity and is most often used as a blending wine in Bordeaux wines. Since the Petit Verdot grape is late ripening, it limits the planting usefulness in the areas that are the coolest and the season is the shortest. The Petit Verdot vines tend to be vigorous at producing the crops but with inconsistency due to the sensitivity of the growing conditions. Because of this, the Petit Verdot wines were constantly replaced or abandoned by most Bordeaux wine producers beginning in the mid-20th Century. Petit Verdot requires a long growing season with hot days and cool nights. Traditionally the grape was grown in the least fertile and best drained areas of a vineyard. It was these tough conditions that gave Petit Verdot grapes their flavor. The name Petit Verdot means "little green" which is a reference to the difficulties of growing Petit Verdot grapes in the Bordeaux region. The grapes do not develop properly unless weather conditions are just right during their flowering season. Petit Verdot grapes also ripen late in the Bordeaux grape-growing season. The season is often too short for the grapes to mature properly so the grape is not grown in large amounts in its native valley. Winegrowers in California and Australia have had better success growing Petit Verdot in their regions' longer growing seasons. The good news is that when the Petit Verdot grapes are planted in suitable climates and they are properly cultivated, the grapes develop into small winged clusters, which are loosely filled with round, dark colored, thick skinned grapes which can produce incredible wines.

With constant improvements being made in vineyard techniques and better locations for warmer vintages, in the last several years the Petit Verdot has enjoyed a small comeback return in Bordeaux. Australia now claims the largest total acreage of Petit Verdot grapes with increasing vineyards in California and Chile. Wine producers in California and Australia are also using Petit Verdot in blended wines, but are increasingly using Petit Verdot to make single labeled wines. Such wines can age for decades, have a deep purple color, and include flavors of violet and leather tones.

Food Pairings

Petit Verdot is best paired with red meats and aged cheese. The wine's tannin levels would overwhelm subtler food selections, so it is best drunk with the boldest of flavors. Rich and strongly flavored foods are the best accompaniments, such as barbequed meats, pork spare ribs, duck and other rich meats. Petit Verdot will go well with BBQ foods and more hearty dishes.

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