Petit Verdot, Big Wine 12/01/11
It seems like only yesterday that Convicted for Grape first reared its sexy head, irredeemably corrupting the innocent world of wine blogging forever. But time must really fly when you’re drinking a lot, because it’s already been a whole year since my inaugural review of the Murphy-Goode 2005 River Ranch Petit Verdot – my very first Petit Verdot, in fact, whose pencil-y goodness thrilled me so much that I had no choice but to write about it.
I’ve come a long way since then. Sure I’ve spent a ton of money I didn’t really have, but in the process I’ve learned a lot about blogging, a lot about wine…and yes, even a few things about myself.
I’ve also had the occasional fortune to taste more examples of varietal Verdot, even though the grape is seldom made into wine all by itself, being more commonly used as a minor blending component in Bordeaux, and Bordeaux-inspired Meritage blends. More often than I’d care to recount, I’ve seen Meritage blends of which Petit Verdot makes up a mere 1 or 2% of the total. And even more often than that, it’s omitted altogether.
But I don’t think that Petit Verdot deserves to be consigned to playing the eternal role of second fiddle (or third, or fourth, or fifth, as the case may be). At the very least, it deserves some recognition for the powerhouse it truly is. Wines produced from the grape are big, bold, and yes, at times obnoxious; it might even help to think of Petit Verdot as the vinous equivalent of a tuba solo. And ask yourself, what could be better?
Today, in the spirit of consistency, I come before you with another: the Deen de Bortoli Vat 4 Petit Verdot 2006 from Southeastern Australia. This proved a bit harder to locate than the others I’ve reviewed, requiring a helping hand from my good friend and wine mule Ben, who picked up a bottle for $13 from Sparrow Wine & Liquor in Hoboken, New Jersey. You may remember New Jersey as one of several states that isn’t Pennsylvania, and which therefore has better wine laws than Pennsylvania. See, because the NJ government doesn’t order the wine for every single store in the state, retailers actually get to choose which wines they’d like to sell, resulting in more variety and less absurdity.
What’s more, it was illegal for Ben to bring me this Petit Verdot, so I’m taking something of a risk by admitting how I acquired it. At least I hope I am, because that would mean there are other people reading my blog, a fact which would more than make up for the public flogging to which I’d likely be subjected under Pennsylvania law, its being so progressive and all.
But I digress. In the glass, this wine poured a practically opaque purple, with maroon edges suggesting this could still age for a little while. On the nose, I was struck with intense notes of blackberry and chocolate, with some slight blackcurrant in the mix as well, and possibly violets (note to self: learn what certain flowers smell like). There was also a definite scent of wood, albeit more subdued than the pencil shavings I detected in the Murphy-Goode, oh so many years ago.
The flavors on the palate were similar to the nose notes, but not identical, with blackberry and blueberry alongside more chocolate, black pepper and what might have been a tiny hint of graphite. Full-bodied and with a long finish, the fruit was the biggest player, more so than I’ve ever tasted in Petit Verdot; it was almost as though the tuba soloist had sealed off all the exits before his performance, ensuring that there could be no escape from his masterpiece. The wine still managed to pull off a pretty decent balancing act, however, with firm (yet fading) tannins, strong acidity, and great complexity for the price point.
I award the Deen de Bortoli Petit Verdot thumbs up, and here’s to another year of partially justified alcoholism!