Friday, January 16, 2009

My New Favorite Grape: Petite Verdot

When I first tried Petite Sirah, I thought: This is it, a grape with an intriguing texture and succulent fruit that's great with food. My zeal for Petite Sirah was already shared by many members of the wine community, though its popularity reached its peak in the 1970's. Few people knew where the grape variety came from until, in 2003, when research led by Dr. Carole Meredith at the University of California at Davis confirmed that the grape was the same as Durif: A variety created by crossing Syrah and Peloursin grapevines.

If you really want to split vines, The Wine Lover's Companion reports that bottles of Petite Sirah can also be viewed as blends rather than varietals because Petite Sirah grapes are rarely planted alone within a vineyard, but are planted alongside true Syrah, Carignane, Mourvèdre and Grenache. Because of this, many bottles of Petite Sirah are actually accidental blends. Anyway, Petite Sirah was brought back to life thanks to California winemakers, and it's likely to become of the grapes varieties, like Zinfandel, that will be known as a truly Californian variety.

But hold on, I predict, with infinite wisdom, that Petite Verdot will soon surpass Petite Sirah in popularity. Like Petite Sirah, Petite Verdot is a big, silky wine, but its fruit is quite a bit brighter. I'm pretty sure this will make it more accessible to the wine community. Stryker Winery in Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, has produced one of my favorite Petite Verdot varietals. The long growing season of 2006 allowed Petite Verdot grapes to fully ripen, which is the trickiest part of their character, and you can taste it in the glass.

I know, you're probably thinking, How can this varietal, which is practically impossible to find in a normal wine store, become one of the leading wines in America? Just remember I said so. And go get a bottle.

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