On a recent grocery store run, I saw a bottle of Chilean Petit Verdot on the shelf of my local Trader Joe’s and was immediately intrigued. Rarely do you see this grape given its own marquee on a wine lable. It is primarily used as a blending grape in Bordeaux, where you find it in small amounts to add lip-puckering tannins to Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. At $6.99 a bottle, Found Object Colchagua Valley Petit Verdot was too good to pass up for a little experimental tasting.
I couldn’t find a website for Found Object – which leads me to believe it’s probably an American labeled and distributed wine of a grape vinted in Chile and then shipped to the States. Other wine bloggers have written about it, however. You can find some amusing anecdotes here and here.
A textbook Petit Verdot is supposed to convey some heftiness in the glass. Like another varietal with the French diminutive word in front of it (“Petite Sirah”), there is nothing puny about it. The color is supposed to be dark, almost black ‘n blue. On the palate, it is known for being deeply tannic and dry. The characteristics of this grape arise out of the fact that it ripens later than other grapes.
However, in warmer climates, particularly in Portugal and the New World, you will see it grown more successfully on its own. Hence, Chilean wineries have apparently succeeded in cultivating it as a sole-varietal bottle of wine.
In California, you will also see Petit Verdot blended in what are called “Meritage” wines. Although you don’t see it as often as you used to, “Meritage” – the label – is a nickname used to describe Bordeaux-style wines grown in California and featuring a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot. Clos Du Bois, for example, made a “Meritage” which included P.V. Interestingly, the winery is phasing out the name “Meritage” in favor of the more refined “Bordeaux-Styled Blend.”
I really enjoyed the “Found Object.” Although it was nothing like what Petit Verdot “should” be. First, the color was almost Pinot Noir-like, and not the glass-coating purple the grape is known for. Second, on the palate it was quaffably lighter bodied, with mild tannins and hints of baked red apples, quince, saffron and rosemary. This is a very capable and tasty table wine to go with mainstays like pizza, spaghetti and with meatballs and roast beef sandwiches. Given the characteristics of this particular wine, I don’t know if Petit Verdot is going to be an annual vintage workhorse shipped to your Trader Joe’s on a regular basis. This is because it would have to be a rare vintage indeed to produce characteristics embodied in this wine. If it does become a “once in a blue moon” thing, I’d probably snatch a bottle and try it out before it becomes so rare as to fetch more kingly prices than $6.99 per bottle!