“What do you mean I’m intensely spicy?”
“You’re spicy, you know? You’re an intense wine.”
“What do you mean, you mean the way I taste?”
“It’s just, you know, you’re just deep and intense and structured. The way you taste…”
“Taste how? What’s tasty about me? I make tasty wine? Like I’m here to f***ing be tasty for you? How the f*** am I tasty?”
This reveals the secret script to Martin Scorsese’s ‘Grapefellas’; a stirring tale of varieties considered outcasts by civilised society but that make a huge name for themselves. Carmenere and Malbec will be played by Pacino and De Niro respectively (reflecting the more mainstream role these varieties have achieved) while the main supporting role of Petit Verdot will be played by Joe Pesci.
It fits well I think. Petit Verdot has never been considered the ‘leading man’ and always been second fiddle. It does however command deep respect from those in the know. Joe Pesci is thick skinned, tannic, concentrated and late ripening. Wait, that’s Petit Verdot. Wait still, it’s both of them. Yes dear reader, it’s a tenuous one this…as if the rest of them aren’t.
Being the hipster I am; I like to go for the non obvious choice…not your Cab Sauv’s (notice the letter U there) or Merlot’s for me. No, I’m too cool, to off the wall…I’m a free agent, a maverick…you get the idea. I still recall my first 100% PV. Way back in the Odd Days we had a wine from the mighty Ben Glaetzer. I think it was called Heartland, but could be wrong. It had a shovel on the label. 100% PV. It was mind blowing; deep, rich, intense with so much fruit and spice I had to check I wasn’t drinking a pepper mill. This was the first time I’d experienced the variety on its own merits and it had me hooked.
PV’s history is far from certain. It’s suspected it may be from the Pyrenees; there’s not much Toulouse with this theory. It has been identified as the parent of Tressot (after an appearance on daytime TV and a DNA test). It’s believed it was taken to Bordeaux by the Romans. Yet another thing they did for us. It has also been shown to be related to Duras. It’s early budding but very late ripening. A factor that would almost prove it is not native to the Gironde. It’s likely it actually predates the more famous Cabernet Sauvignon. Unusually it gives 2 clusters per shoot (I know right?!) of small berried, thick skinned bunches. It’s resistant to rot but has weaker canes and shoots. Effectively it’s hard work; delicate to grow and incredibly difficult to ripen. On average it hits ripeness once every 4 years. A greater strike rate than me writing a joke that’s actually funny.
Due to this ripening difficulty it eventually fell out of favour in Bordeaux. Phylloxera did it some serious damage so already there wasn’t much of it. The frost of ’56, and we all remember how that turned out, all but killed it off in the region. Growers grubbed it up and replaced with the more reliable Merlot. By 1988 France only had 300 hectares of the variety. However, with global warming and consumers looking towards more intense, richer and spicier styles of wine it had somewhat of a resurgence. By 2011 there were 1000 hectares in France, with 67% of those in the Gironde.
It’s often been seen as a ‘salt and pepper’ variety; it has a high skin to pulp ratio and is anthocyanin rich. This means it has plenty of colour, tannin and flavour. It also holds acidity very well. It will pack out that hollow mid palate of Cab Sauv as well as add spiciness and extra depth to a blend. Herve Berland of Chateau Montrose has said that even 1% of it in a blend is detectable and makes a huge difference. Chateau Palmer (how is this a third growth, honestly?) are probably the most famous name to use it, sometimes up to a massive 6%.
It has gained popularity in California and Virginia (I’ve had a couple of belters from here) as well as Argentina (where it used to be known as ‘Fer’) and Chile. Australia has the largest amount planted but you’ll also find it in Peru, Portugal, the Maremma and South Africa. As the globe continues to warm the variety will become more important. As much as I love this variety I obviously would like to see vineyards warming gently in the sun rather than on fire so if we can collectively contribute that’d be great…
I picked this up from the OWC on Emily’s recommendation and am not disappointed. This is packed in with violet fruit, pepper spice, cocoa, cinnamon, nutmeg and deep black fruit characters. There’s also [insert usual tasting nonsense about tannin and acidity etc] In short, it’s a cracking bit of kit. Refreshing acidity and fine grained tannins amongst all that packed in yet well defined fruit.
Domaine Mas Belles Eaux was purchased by Axa Millesimes in 2002; CEO Christian Seely adding it to his list of top notch French estates. This makes the wine now a stablemate of Chateau Pichon-Longueville and Quinta do Noval. The estate covers 90 hectares (65 planted to vines) of prime Languedoc land near Caux, in the Peyne Valley; only 28 clicks from the Mediterranean Sea. The cellar was constructed in the 17th century and the estate itself is named after the numerous fresh water springs that can be found within its boundaries. There’s a great array of soils here including Villafranchian Gravel, red clay and plenty of alluvials. Fruit is harvested in October (did I mention late ripening?) and has regular pigeage in concrete and stainless steel tanks before bottling.
I had a hankering for something deep, rich, structured and spicy and this did not disappoint. Absolutely spot on.
Remember; it’s just grapes.