Petit Verdot grapes
Petit Verdot is a red grape variety that is traditionally used in Cabernet Sauvignon based blends. That said a considerable number of Australian producers are making it into a stand alone wine with successful results. It is known for its intense colour, vibrant flavours and firm tannin structure making it a good choice for true red wine drinkers.
The variety is thought to have originated in the Bordeaux region of France, where it was once widely included in the wines of the Medoc. Although it ripens late in the season, it holds onto its acidity making it a useful blending component in warmer years. However this late ripening characteristic and general unpredictability caused it to fall out of favour with many French producers and plantings significantly declined.
In recent years, the variety has seen a comeback. Many Bordelaise producers are again embracing Petit Verdot for its unique colour, acid and structural characters. Plantings also exist in California, South America and Australia. Australia has seen a dramatic increase in plantings over the last five years, however the variety still only constitutes two percent of the national red crush.
Within Australia, Petit Verdot is interestingly making a home for itself in the warm regions surrounding the Murray River. The Riverland houses Australia's largest plantings, followed by the Murray Valley and Riverina. Petit Verdot's ability to retain its acidity in these warm climates is the key to its success. Significant plantings can also be found in McLaren Vale, Langhorne Creek and the Limestone Coast.
As a varietal wine, Petit Verdot has an interesting flavour profile. It can be incredibly perfumed, having aromas of blueberry and violet. Sometimes it has an attractive herbaceous and spice element, giving the variety complexity. The acidity is often prominent and due to the thick skins of the grape, the colour is very dense and the tannins are firm. Structural wines with intense flavours can age well in the mid term. Due to its strength of character, Petit Verdot can have a significant impact on a blend, even when used in small proportions.
When pairing Petit Verdot with food, keep the acid and tannin level of the variety in mind. Rich and strongly flavoured foods are the best accompaniments. Experiment with barbequed lamb chops, pork spare ribs, duck and other rich meats. Hearty casseroles and mature cheeses also work well.
Two of Australia's largest producers of Petit Verdot include
Kingston Estate in the Riverland and Pirramimma in McLaren Vale.
They have both had considerable experience with the variety and
make good examples of varietal Petit Verdot.
© Toni Paterson 2006