Pennsylvania Wine School: What is a Petit Verdot?

Chambour-huh? Vidal who? Need some help demystifying some of Pennsylvania’s most essential wine words? The PA Wine Land Post is at your service, schooling you on the grapes you need to know.

Varietal: Petit Verdot (pronounced peh-tee vur-doe)

Grown: Across the state but particularly in southeastern Pennsylvania

Similar to: Merlot

Hailing from the Bordeaux region of France, Petit Verdot is a late-ripening red wine grape renowned for its vibrant color, high tannins, and signature floral aroma. Because of those traits, the varietal has long been a key player in Bordeaux’s vaunted red blends, but in the New World, it is earning a reputation as a standalone grape.

The name Petit Verdot means “little green one,” which is a nod to the grape’s delayed ripening — the small berries remain green while other fruit is ready for harvest. Because of that, many winemakers in France have actually moved away from the varietal, replacing it with Merlot and Cabernet Franc.

Fortunately, Petit Verdot seems to do best in warm, well-drained, gravel-based soils, just like those in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Quite a few Chester County wineries are having major success with this tricky grape.

When cultivated in cooler climates, Petit Verdot exhibits flavors of dried herbs, tart blueberry, and blackberry. Meanwhile, warmer conditions will translate to jammier dark fruit notes. Other flavors include plum and black cherry. Take note of complex herbal aromas such as lilac, lavender, sage, and violet. Some iterations are delightfully rustic, with hints of leather and graphite. Most winemakers will age these wines in oak, fostering undercurrents of vanilla and hazelnut. Overall, these wines are dry and full-bodied, with high tannins and medium-plus acidity.

Thanks to its relatively high acidity, Petit Verdot is wonderful served alongside rich dishes such as roasted lamb, creamy mushroom pasta, or soft cheeses. Even better, choose a dish that balances richness with a touch of sweetness or spice — this will bring out the wine’s earthy and herbal flavors. Think Korean short ribs (galbi), enchiladas with mole, or caramel-y aged gouda.