Now that it is fall again and I see kids heading off to school clearly trying to fit in while being their own person, I'm reminded there are some fun varietals out there that don't always get the attention they deserve. And there are some perfect ones for this time of year! Let's take a closer look... Petit Verdot is a grape varietal known for contributing great depth, color and florals to wines, but also has a reputation as a Johnny Come Lately. This black-skinned grape has a tough time ripening without consistently warm enough temperatures. In Bordeaux where it is best known perhaps, relative cool temperatures more often prevail. There Petit Verdot doesn't fully mature until the end of October, too late to really start the fall school year with the other kids.
What other kids? Well, Petit Verdot is one of the top 5 (Noble) red grapes used in Bordeux reds, alongside the bigger players Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and the often smaller ones, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. No surprise, each of these grapes has an important role. Petit Verdot's most recognized (and perhaps critical) contribution is to the wine's structure or backbone, but I've noticed in print it doesn't get as much attention for some of its other attributes.
This will likely change soon enough. Case in point: my full appreciation for what Petit Verdot can contribute to its counterparts only came when I spent some time with it on its own. And fortunately folks in California and Australia, where the warmer climates are much more conducive to this grape's maturation, are happy to give this varietal a chance to sing its own tune.
The Deen De Bortoli Vat 4 Petit Verdot is a great example of a wine destined for the head of the class as a fall favorite. This is a great BBQ wine. It is super dark in color, almost like the ink spilling from your pen. If you missed your opportunity to pick up some fresh mint at the farmer's market, you have a second chance by taking in the nose of this wine. It is not at all shy about delivering dark berry fruit and some dark chocolate flavors on the palate, either. The firm tannins and acidity (there's that structure it's famous for!) give this wine just the food-friendly oomph you hope for when grilled meat's on the menu.
If you've never had a chance to experience this lesser known, (lesser established perhaps?), grape varietal on it's own, your homework is to do so this fall. For those of you who have had the luck of finding a bottle of the stuff, won't you share with the class?