Wine 34: Petit Verdot

This time we’re heading back to France for a red varietal called Petit Verdot. Though it can certainly hold its own as a single-varietal wine, it’s probably best known as one of the six Bordeaux grapes, hanging around with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Carménère (though this last one is more rare). Petit Verdot only plays a small role in these blends, but its presence brings more flavor, color, and tannin to the wines. One of the signatures of Petit Verdot and Petite Sirah is the inky purple color, the kind that stains the teeth (which is totally worth it in my opinion!).

Some believe the Romans brought this grape – whose parents are unconfirmed but suspected to be Duras and Tressot – over to France, which is why it became so widely used in the Left Bank blends. Phylloxera basically decimated the plantings in this region, and France just never replanted. This varietal made its way to the New World regions – like California and Washington, Australia, and Chile – where the warmer climates help this grape thrive.

With its small black berries, you may be wondering why the grape is called “Petit Verdot” and not “Petit Noir.” The green reference is appropriate because of one of the main issues that arises with this grape is that its longer ripening time means it often doesn’t get a chance to fully develop. It may come as a surprise that all wine grapes – whether intended for use in red, rosé, or white wines – start out green! Petit Verdot ripens later than the other Bordeaux varietals, which is yet another reason why this grape has fallen lower on the totem pole in terms of its use, if it’s even used at all. Mature grapes can produce wonderfully rich wines that have bold, jammy blueberry flavors and aromas melded with candied violets. But underripe grapes will produce wines with sharp acidity and tart berry flavors, coming across quite unbalanced.

When it comes to red wines, Petit Verdot is definitely on the deep end of the spectrum as far as body and depth (next to Petite Sirah). Young Petit Verdot wines can have aromas reminiscent of banana and pencil shavings (taking me back to my school days!), whereas age converts the bouquet to something more elegant, with violet and leather notes shining through. Petit Verdot brings the tannin party to your glass of wine, which adds to the intensity it already exudes. This wine marries fruity, floral, and herbal notes so well, which makes it an excellent wine to pair with richer dishes, even spiced foods.

As you may remember, I have a Bright Cellars wine subscription (sure, they’re located in Milwaukee and I know them personally, but I promise I’m not totally biased!).  I’ll take a minute to do a little plug: it’s a monthly wine club that caters to your individual tastes. You start by taking a quiz which will identify some of your flavor preferences, get a shipment of 4 or more bottles, and with each shipment – assuming you rate the wines you received – your wines will evolve and get closer to matching your tastes. It’s great to not only get wines that you know you love, but also expand your horizons (and trust me, you’ll soon see what I mean in upcoming posts). Bright Cellars makes their own wines from around the world. Also, if you use the link above, you’ll get a discount on your first shipment. You’re welcome!

Ok now that I’ve told you the cool things about what Bright Cellars does, let’s talk about the cool wine I drank to feature on this post, the 2017 Jetbird Petit Verdot.


Appearance: This wine is a dark ruby color, that’s so inky and captivating in the glass.

Nose: This wine has an intense fragrance comprised of plum, blackcurrant and sage. It’s not too often I’m able to pick out the herbal notes, but the sage aroma was practically jumping out of the glass into my nose…in a good way.

Taste: This wine is a medium-plus to full bodied red, with medium acidity and supple tannins. Cassis and plum were the primary fruit flavors I picked up, which worked so well together. It was like a movie with an ensemble cast – if you removed one of the elements, it just wouldn’t be the same and quite possibly wouldn’t be as good, but collectively they are magic. This may sound weird, but I love when I sip a wine and the first description that comes to mind is “cool.” Sure you can chill a wine, but certain wines will put this image in my head of a pool of mercury that looks icy and metallic and smooth. That was this wine.

Overall: I dig Petit Verdot. I’m such a huge fan of bigger, bolder red wines, especially those that are so well-balanced. Although I do love a good Zinfandel, wines without those spice notes are totally my jam, and this one fits the bill. This would certainly be a wine I’d want to get again from Bright Cellars!

If you want to try another really good wine that includes this grape but is a blend, check out Michael David Winery’s Petite Petit. It’s a blend of Petite Sirah and Petit Verdot. So good!

Until next time, cheers!


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