It is quite unusual to find Petit Verdot offered as a single varietal, since it is most often used in red wine blends such as Bordeaux blends. The lack of popularity of this wine is mostly due to its lack of ripening, with the grapes often becoming ripe very late on in the season. This lateness means that it is not often available to be blended with other grapes, and other varieties of wine tend to be preferred. The only exception to this is in some places in the New World, such as South Africa, where the warmer weather allows the vines to come into season earlier, and the grapes ripen quickly.
In South Africa, Petit Verdot is mainly still used as a blend mix with other wines to create Bordeaux blends, although some producers have started to make their own single varietal version of this wine. Growing the grapes is the most difficult part of the process, since the small fruits of this variety need to have plenty of heat during the flowering season in order to fully ripen. In fact, the name ‘Little Green‘ given to the wine is a remark upon the fact that the grapes often do not mature, and remain green. Grapes which do not mature properly may also give a ‘green’ or unpleasant taste to the wine.
Taste can vary greatly, depending upon the age of the grapes at harvest. Younger grapes will have a rather banana-like taste, with a woody edge, while older grapes will tend to produce a violet or leather flavour. In South Africa, the Petit Verdot grapes are rather sensitive to drought, which can give an acidic taste to the wines, but where it is grown and tended carefully, the wine is likely to be a dark, fruity taste which has a full body. If the plants are not carefully irrigated, then they can produce an excess of acid which will make the resulting wine too astringent to easily swallow. However, with the South African weather allowing Petit Verdot to ripen successfully, the wines produced should be extremely tasty, with full body, meaty taste and fresh fruit aromas, all of which can be savoured when drinking a single varietal Petit Verdot wine.
When looking out for good bottles of Petit Verdot, it is important to learn how much has been added to the wine in order to give it the full taste. Some, such as the Mitchell’s Pass 2006 have added Merlot to the mix in order to give the wine some depth of flavour, and this is also true of the 2005 Lategan Petit Verdot. The Raka 2009, by Josef Dreyer, on the other hand, is one hundred percent Petit Verdot, and with the addition of French Oak to give it an additional kick, this wine is a very good quality, although the amount of tannins in the grapes have allowed it to become very dry.
This wine is suitable for red meats and pasta dishes with tomato sauces, and it can also be drunk after the third-course of a meal.