Virginia: Petit Verdot's Home Away From Home?
Last week I got together with a group of wine pals and uncorked several Virginia Petit Verdot wines. We also added an example from California in the mix to make things interesting. Paradise Springs Winery in Clifton, Virginia, who recently opened a beautiful new tasting room, was kind enough to host us. They also included their unreleased 2010 Petit Verdot in the tasting lineup. The tasting was blind, with each wine tasted, then discussed, and immediately un-bagged, which, of course, led to more discussion about the wine being tasted. The goal was not to find a winner or loser, but to discuss this bit player in Bordeaux, Petit Verdot, that seems to be finding a leading role here in Virginia. Over the last few years, Petit Verdot has risen in popularity in Virginia. Some of this attention is because Petit Verdot is still fairly new and a grape variety that can provide some size and structure (red meat wine) to what some consider an otherwise easy drinking lineup. The local wine industry has also done a good job of creating name recognition and demand for Petit Verdot through educating consumers about the grape variety and more producers adding it to their portfolio as a single varietal wine. While fairly new to Virginia, Petit Verdot is very old, hailing from Bordeaux, where it’s used as a minor blending variety to add color, structure, and aroma/flavor components to the regions's red wine blends. Petit Verdot is a late-ripening variety, so over the years it has fallen out of favor in its homeland and acreage has been reduced. During cooler growing seasons in Bordeaux, Petit Verdot may not live up to its full potential or ripen at all. Surprisingly, the ripening problems experienced in Bordeaux, are not a major issue here.
Petit Verdot Wines
Petit Verdot is also used to add color and beef up blends here in Virginia, and ask any winemaker, a little bit of Petit Verdot goes a long way. Add too much Petit Verdot and it can overwhelm your blend or single varietal wine. Remember, for a wine to be labeled with the name of a grape, it must be composed of at least 75% of that grape – the remaining 25% can be anything else. Critics of the variety say that Petit Verdot plays the role of a minor blending variety for good reason. On its own, some think of it as a little one-dimensional, needing help from other varieties to fill gaps, add flavor, and round out the edges. That being said, proof that Virginia may be Petit Verdot’s home away from home is that there are some delicious local examples that are 100% Petit Verdot that are complete wines from start to finish. So, if you’re new to Petit Verdot what should you expect? Consider this: if Petit Verdot is used in very small amounts to deepen color, add structure, tannins, and flavor, then you should expect an inky, bold, and fairly assertive wine in your glass. Especially if you’re getting at least 75% of it in a single varietal wine, right? To wrap things up, in a June 2009 blog post I wrote titled, “Petit Verdot: The Next Big Thing?” I stated, “Not all local Petit Verdot wines are created equal.” I went on to add, “Quality, style, and consistency differ from producer to producer – some hit, some miss.” I still feel this way, but for the most part, there are some very nice, and fairly assertive local examples out there perfect for pairing with rich meats or hearty fare. Below are the wines we tasted and my tweets with some additional comments. Now it’s your turn! Grab a glass of Petit Verdot and drop me an e-mail and let me know how you like it. Cheers!
Glen Manor 2005 Petit Verdot: Red currant, dark fruit, anise, mocha touches, mineral notes, smoke, solid framework, mouth-filling texture, notable depth of fruit, firm, yet integrated tannins. This is a very nice local example with great structure, complexity, balance, and a lengthy finish. Find this vintage if you can!
Rappahannock Cellars 2006 Petit Verdot: Tart cherry and blackberry scents with a dash of pepper and spice that’s backed by a subtle herbal component. Medium-bodied palate has good acidity and supple soft tannins; fairly easy-drinking w/o much structure for a Petit Verdot, but overall, a nice sipping wine.
St. Supéry 2006 Petit Verdot: Rich deep purple color with dominate sweet plum and blueberry aromas. On the palate: plump/ripe fruit, voluptuous in style, with ripe tannins. As it opens, inviting fruit mingles with mocha touches, sweet floral perfume, and an enjoyable, long finish. This is a very nice example from our friends on the left coast. (California)
Pearmund Cellars 2005 Petit Verdot: Dill, pickle-like, mushroom, soft red berry scents (similar on palate) – this wine has mouth-feel going for it but has lost its fruit and freshness. It was cellared properly and likely showed best in its youth. While six years isn’t exactly old for a Petit Verdot in my opinion, I’m left to assume that this wine was made to be enjoyed within 1-3 years of release.
Keswick Vineyard 2009 Petit Verdot: Nearly opaque in color, inviting nose, rich mouth-feel, dark cherry, purple stone fruit, dark chocolate, and subtle vanilla flavors, developed mid-palate with youthful tannins and a nice lingering finish. Tasters had this pegged for the California example.
North Gate Vineyards 2009 Petit Verdot: Deep purple in color with plum, cherry candy, spice, and inviting floral perfume scents. The palate is medium-bodied with velvety tannins, plush mid-palate, and a pleasing medium length finish.
Veritas 2009 Petit Verdot: Deep, rich color with pleasant scents of blackberry, boysenberry, violets, and hints of baking spice and roasted hazelnuts. Aromas extend to the palate with good up front fruit followed by a supple and silky tannin structure and a long smooth finish.
Paradise Springs 2010 Petit Verdot: Dark purple color, dark cherry, dried raspberry hues and a floral, waxy essence, young tannins, tightly wound core. This wine was recently bottled and has not been released yet. It still needs a little time, but started to open up nicely after an hour of breathing. A sure bet for a marbled rib-eye steak when ready.
Pollak Petit 2008 Petit Verdot: Deep color, nice rich black berry, cherry fruit, and floral scents that extend to the palate (w/ good up front fruit). Supple entry with a mouth-coating texture, solid structure and drying finish -- bring on the red meat!
Linden 2006 Petit Verdot: Medium-dark violet color, bright tart cherry/berry flavors (predominately red fruit flavors), integrated tannins, medium structure, and well-balanced. This wine improved with about 30-45 minutes of air; the flavor profile became more pronounced.
[NOTE: Not a part of the tasting, but I recently had it] DuCard Vineyards 2009 Petit Verdot. She's deep purple, fairly bold and robust, with modest dark fruit, toast, and a hint of floral perfume and spicy oak notes, w/ drying tannins in finish.
Have a question about this post, friends? Feel free to leave a comment or send me an e-mail at email@example.com, and as always, Happy Sipping! Stay tuned ...more to come!
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