Petit Verdot is a French red grape variety and one of the five allowed grapes in red Bordeaux. Though it’s most widely grown in France, petit verdot is cultivated all over the world—most especially where cabernet sauvignon is planted as it’s commonly blended to add body, color, and richness.
Though petit verdot is usually blended into wines in tiny quantities (often only 5-6%), it makes a powerful impact. You’ll find it less frequently made as a varietal wine, but when you do, it’s worth picking some up—that is, if you love rich, deep, full-bodied red wines.
Because the skin is rather thick and the berries are quite small, the juice-to-skin ratio is low, and tannins are high. It’s also an exceptionally late-ripener, which is why it isn’t as popular a choice for winemakers as merlot or cabernet sauvignon. The petit verdot may not ripen evenly in challenging vintages, so it’s unreliable as a mainstay.
What Does Petit Verdot Taste Like?
Typical aromas and flavors in petit verdot tend to the floral, with distinct and lifted aromas of violets, lilac, and occasionally sage and dried herbs, especially if the vintage is cool. Expect juicy black plum, blueberry, and blackberry on the palate, often with peppery notes on the finish.
When petit verdot is aged in oak for an extended period, it takes on mocha, cacao, and spice flavors. It can also take on a leathery aspect, although those flavors are more about the choices made in the vineyard than the winery.
Viticulture is a fine line—you need to pick at precisely the right time to get the ideal balance of flavors, sugar, and acidity. Since it’s a late ripener, there is a tendency to “let it hang” a little longer. The dried fruit that results is responsible for these leathery notes, which, while not entirely unpleasant, are not typical.
When we talk about a Bordeaux cuvée, we consider the five allowed grapes: cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, malbec, and petit verdot. Each has a specific job to do, whether it’s adding to the nose, color, acidity, body, alcohol, or fruitiness. Petit verdot lends tannin, body, and color. It adds richness to lighter-bodied merlot and fleshes out the body for cabernet, which can be pretty acidic in cooler years.
And although you won’t often find a varietal petit verdot, they aren’t that rare. When they are made, it’s usually in smaller quantities, and they generally represent a unique niche in a winery portfolio.
Outside of France, you’ll find petit verdot in California, Australia, Argentina, Chile, South Africa, Spain, Italy, and even in cooler regions like Canada and lesser-known American DVAs like Texas and Virginia.
What Foods Pair with Petit Verdot?
Steak is an excellent pairing with petit verdot, especially when you add some rich, buttery bearnaise sauce. Your best strategy is to match its texture as much as possible.
Any kind of beans (legumes), black beans, pinto beans are delicious. Dishes with truffles, or any type of mushrooms for that matter, are also excellent.
Petit verdot can be remarkable when paired with Indian food, although it’s best to choose dishes that are mild on the heat. Decanting the wine will usually tame the acids and tannins nicely if there is the slightest bit of hot spiciness.
Aged cheeses do well with petit verdot, as do smoked cheeses, raclette, and gruyere.