Journal | October 10, 2016
Petit Verdot is an obscure grape variety that came to us from Bordeaux. In Bordeaux it has historically played a very minor role in left bank blends. So minor that most Bordeaux wines contain no Petit Verdot. With recent warming trends there is a renewed interest in the grape as a more significant blending partner, especially in Medoc, as Merlot is falling out of favor with some Chateaux.
Hardscrabble’s first planting of Petit Verdot was in 1991. I immediately became enamored with the vines as they were more or less problem free and consistent in yields (in fact they want to over produce making cluster thinning a bit of a labor drain).Once it became evident that there was a bright future for Petit Verdot in our region we planted a lot more. By the early 2000’s we had a substantial acreage of Petit Verdot.
The wines were inky dark, high alcohol, high acid and high tannin, but rustic. A little bit went a long way. I soon discovered that in blends, Petit Verdot could easily dominate all other components. The finesse of Merlot and the fine grained tannins of Cabernet Sauvignon were overshadowed by the shear power of Petit Verdot. We’ve now pulled back substantially on the percentage of Petit Verdot used in the Hardscrabble blend, and even in Claret. The dilemma was what to do with all of the Petit Verdot in barrel, but not appropriate for blending.
In 2002 we bottled Linden’s first varietal Petit Verdot. While I’m not a fan of single variety Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot does well on its own (although it usually has some help with a bit of Carmenere, Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc). At first we made the Petit Verdot in the same way as the other wines, but over the past five years we’ve been backing off the extraction (cooler fermentations, less movement and shorter cuvaison times). This has resulted in a wine that is less rustic and brooding. While hardly finessed, the wines are more fruit driven, fresher, and juicy.
This year will be no exception. The Petit Verdot was generally the last red to be picked and will be one of the first to be drained and pressed off of the skins. Some of it will spend its life in stainless steel and some in old barrels. It will probably be bottled early, in August 2017.