This is the story of how I met Petit Verdot variety in the vineyard and how I chased it until my wine glass. Have you ever met the grape of the wine that you drank? It is a really good feeling and it definitely changes the way how you look into your glass of wine.
In September, when all the vineyards in Medoc region were getting ready for the harvest time, I was there to experience this. In this area, the vineyard activities are regulated strictly by the appellation rules, and the chateaux pay high attention to their vineyards in all aspects of the quality. That is actually one of the keys of their success in the wine sector.
Petit Verdot is one of the allowed varieties in the Medoc appellation and it is used in the blends for its color, tannin and complex aromas. It has also some unique characteristics in the plant. First of all, when you see the Petit Verdot vines, you be can surprised with its load because it produces more than 2 clusters per shoot. If it is not regulated, you can end up with a really high yield, but of course it is not the case in this appellation. Another characteristic is the shape of its leaves which looks like small hearts. These definitely give the vines a picturesque look.
As I tasted the grapes in the first week of September, they were high in acidity and with some small and immature berries in the bunch. Then, I waited a bit more until the second week of September, and I saw that they had already a good decrease in acidity. As I talked with the viticulturist of this plot, he told me that every year they observe late flowering and late veraison in Petit Verdot in comparison to other varieties of the region, like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, however it is very fast in the period in between veraison and maturation. This harvest, it happened as expected and Petit Verdot was just ready to be harvested in the third week of September, just after Merlot and before Cabernet Sauvignon, when they have reached their optimum maturity, by hand harvest.
Hand harvest is preferred generally in this region for quality and to be able to keep integrity of the grapes until they reach the winery. Although these days technology in harvester machines are incredibly improved, in my opinion hand harvesting is the best way to respect the vines and their fruits that they give as a result of a time period of two years. Hand harvesting also has an advantage in the selection of the grapes. In our case, the harvested Petit Verdot grapes went in the first selection table just in the vineyard. Before they were put in the big bins, the leaves and immature bunches were selected by hand. Then, the tractor took the bins to the reception of the grapes in the winery and there the grapes started their journey of winemaking.
In the winery, Petit Verdot passed from destemmer, where the berries were separated from the stems. Next, they went to an automatic sorting machine where they were separated from the stems which were not separated previously. And finally the berries were selected again by hand selection with a sorting table, to be sure that only the healthy and mature berries were able to reach to the tank.
The selected quality berries finished their journey safely in their wooden tank. After inoculation of yeast, Petit Verdot did not lose any time to start the fermentation and finished it in a week. After a week of full of alcohol production, it still stayed ten more days in the same tank in which it was really busy with maceration and malolactic fermentation. Finally, it was drained and the wine is separated from its pomace.
I had the chance to taste this wine-to-be along this time period. Before the fermentation, I tasted the juice, in the nose I could still feel the soil which the grapes are coming from; this was the smell of nature. When the fermentation started, this aroma already was gone by leaving its place to a fruit garden. The importance of the winemaking is keeping these primary aromas coming from the grapes and also obtaining the secondary aromas which develop during the fermentation by yeast action.
Finally, Petit Verdot wine went to French oak barrels to age and I tasted it as a wine. It was a future promising young wine. Although it will be only a part of the blend, it even deserves to be a single variety wine and to be a star on its own! But anyway, I am sure that it will do its best in the blend, with its stable dark cherry color, pleasant red fruit aromas, strong body and fresh acidity.
All images © 2015 by Nedret Neslihan IVIT. All rights reserved.