Petit Verdot is a red grape variety that is traditionally used in the classic Bordeaux blends. The grape ripens much later than other varieties in Bordeaux, so late that it fell out of favor with producers here, although plantings have recently increased, there are only small amounts planted in the region. The grape was, and is, most often used to blend with other wines, that being said a considerable number of wine producers in other countries, particularly Australia, have picked up the baton and are producing quality varietal wines using this grape. It is known for its intense colour, vibrant flavours and firm tannin structure making it a good choice for true red wine drinkers.
Petit Verdot is thought to predate Cabernet Sauvignon in the Bordeaux region, but its origins are unclear. There are records of it in the eighteenth century, but the characteristics of the grape suggest an origin in much hotter climates than the Gironde.
This grape is one parent of Tressot, the other parent being Duras, a grape from the upper Tarn valley near Toulouse. There is speculation that both were brought to the region by the Romans as they moved inland from the Mediterranean.
Australia: Petit Verdot arrived in Australia with James Busby's collection of 1832. The grape was then trialled by Sir William Macarthur in the 1840s. In 2000 there were 1600 hectares under vine in Australia. The Riverland houses Australia's largest plantings of Petit Verdot, followed by the Riverina and Murray Valley. This grapes ability to retain its acidity in these warm climates is proving to be the key to its success. Significant plantings can also be found in McLaren Vale, Limestone Coast and the Langhorne Creek. In Australia the grape is increasingly being used to make big, brooding, single varietal wines that will age for several years.
United States: The popularity of Meritage Bordeaux style blends has seen an increase in both plantings, and interest in this grape variety. As of 2003 there were 360 hectares of the grape planted in California. The warmer climate here is an advantage over Bordeaux, helping the grapes to reliably ripen, meaning less loss of crops. Many wine producers here are starting to experiment with single Varietal Petit Verdot wines. Small plantings can also be found in Texas, Colorado, Missouri, Virginia and Washington.
France: Nearly all of the Petit Verdot in France can be found growing in Bordeaux, mainly in the Medoc where this grape is used in small amounts to help give structure to the classic Bordeaux blend. However the late ripening of this grape means that in some years the entire crop is lost and, on average, only properly ripens once every four years, so it has fallen out of favour, particularly with the trend towards earlier-maturing wine.
Petit Verdot can display strong 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. These wines will mellow with some cellaring. They are best paired with strong foods such as Pork spare ribs, game, duck, barbequed meats and mutured cheeses.