Petit Verdot first gained fame as a blending grape
for making Bordeaux
wine. However, because Petit Verdot often has difficulties reaching full phenolic ripeness, not much of it is planted or used in Bordeaux. The Petit Verdot berries need very specific conditions to ripen, starting with the correct weather during flowering. Petit Verdot ripens later than the other main Bordeaux varietals. This lateness in ripening and harvesting dates often precludes the fruit from being included in the final blend. Interestingly, Petit Verdot has a unique characteristic not found in most grape varieties, Petit Verdot produces more than two clusters per shoot. The grape is much older than Cabernet Sauvignon
. The origins of Petit Verdot are unclear. But it’s possible the fruit was created from a cross of Duras and Tressot. It is thought that the grape is one of the first varieties originally planted in Bordeaux by the ancient Romans.
While Petit Verdot is not always used in the final blends, due to its issues with achieving ripeness. When it is part of the assemblage, it adds additional tannin, color and a unique flavor profile that can manifest itself with aromas of flowers, olive or when very ripe, blueberry characteristics. When not fully ripe, it tends to be a sharply, acidic and unpleasant grape.
Chateau Pichon Lalande in Pauillac has some of the largest plantings of Petit Verdot in the Medoc. Chateau Palmer in Margaux and Lagrange in St. Julien are also known for including the Petit Verdot in their Bordeaux wine, provided the berries were able to fully ripen. Chateau Fonbel in St. Emilion could have the largest amount of the fruit planted in the Right Bank at close to 10%. Chateau La Lagune could have the most Petit Verdot of any 1855 Classified wine in modern times at 10%. Chateau Belle-Vue in Haut Medoc has 20% of the vines dedicated to Petit Verdot. However, the largest plantings of the variety in Bordeaux are probably located at Chateau Bolaire in the Bordeaux Superieur region. In some vintages, as much as 40% of their blend could be Petit Verdot!