Saturday, May 3, 2014

Virginia Varietal Spotlight: Petit Verdot

To fans of Virginia wine, Cab Franc may be the be-all, end-all of red varietals common to the Commonwealth. As the earthy, smooth red grows so well in the state, it's easy to understand why (you'd be hard presssed to visit a Virginia winery that does not offer a Cab Franc). But other reds are snapping at Cab Franc's heels, with promises to stand beside Franc as the signature red representing the state.

Petit Verdot belongs on that list of reds, along with Norton, Chambourcin, and up and comers like Lemberger. Petit Verdot is known throughout the world as a Bordeaux blend, commonly used along with Merlot, Malbec, Cab Franc and/or Cab Sauv, to create popular wines such as Meritage. When used for blending, Petit Verdot is usually on the lower end of the scale (below 10% in some cases), mainly to add tanins and complexity to the wine. However stand-alone Petit Verdot is gaining acclaim and popularity, especially in Virginia (as well as California, Texas and Washington state), due to its ability to age gracefully and accompany hearty meat dishes. But, like many other unique New World reds, stand-alone Petit Verdot may get some getting used to.

We discovered stand-alone Petit Verdot about seven years ago at Glen Manor Vineyards. Their 2005 Petit Verdot is the most prized bottle on David's wine rack, at the time pretty expensive ($28), but getting better by the year. Given its complex character, the notes that surround Petit Verdot range from vanilla and nutmeg to blackberry and plum to licorace and molasses. Petit Verdot tends to have a high alcohol content, only adding to its ability to age gracefully. Most Petit Verdots from a recent year that we've tried had a bit too much bite to them. In the "open and enjoy now" mindset of many new Virginia wine fans, these notes don't lend well to picking up bottles to go. As a result, most Virginia wineries grow Petit Verdot mainly to blend with other reds.

Glen Manor Vineyards does not offer a stand-alone Petit Verdot at this time. Following in the lead set by winemaker Jeff White's mentor Jim Law of Linden Vineyards, Glen Manor only develops the grape into a stand-alone wine if the growing season and harvest is perfectly suited to the varietal. And given the unpredictable nature of Virginia's weather, this is fairly rare. Besides 2005, Glen Manor offered 2007 and 2009 vintages of Petit Verdot (there is something about those odd numbered years).

Where to try stand-alone Petit Verdot now:

If you don't feel like waiting for the next International Award winning Petit Verdot produced by Glen Manor, there are other wineries in the state that offer it; their Petit Verdots may not be the perfectionist quality of Glen Manor, but some drinkers may actually prefer the wines offered by other locations. With wine, it's all about the taste buds of the participant. Below are wineries (hyperlinked to website) that offer distinctive Petit Verdots. Give it a try. And imagine this wine with a juicy steak or warm bowl of stew.

Ingleside Vineyards (Northern Neck)
General's Ridge Vineyards (Northern Neck)
Potomac Point Winery (Stafford)
James River Cellars (north of Richmond)
Willowcroft (Loudoun County)
Roger's Ford Winery (near Culpeper)


  1. Casanel Vineyards has a 2010 Reserve Petit Verdot that is very good.

  2. White Hall, South of Charlottesville, has a very good Petit Verdot. $18, is what I paid for a 2013.

  3. White Hall, South of Charlottesville, has a very good Petit Verdot. $18, is what I paid for a 2013.