Seattle Wine Blog

This blog is dedicated to commentary on all aspects of wine, especially short entries to help you find the best wines without the usual hype and spin. These are my frank, independent opinions, usually based on tasting wine at a public event, off the shelf or at the winery. "All creative acts must arise out of a specific soil and flicker with a spirit of place" -D.H. Lawrence

Sunday, July 09, 2006

2002 Januik Petit Verdot

Petit Verdot is generally considered a blending grape. It is usually listed as the fifth varietal among the five Bordeaux blending grapes. These days most Bordeaux is simply a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. In Pomerol and St. Emilion it is frequently a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Malbec has pretty much disappeared from Bordeaux and when Petit Verdot is used, it is usually only 3% to 15% of the blend. In American Bordeaux style blends it is also normally kept to less than 15%.

When Seattle winemaker, Mike Januik, bought some Petit Verdot grapes from Ciel Du Cheval vineyard on Red Mountain recently he was planning to blend it with Merlot and/or Cab. When he tasted the Petite Verdot in barrel, he was so taken with the marvelous quality of the wine that he decided to bottle 100% pure Petit Verdot. This was truly a rare opportunity to taste wine made from this grape. When I was doing tastings of Bordeaux style wines, the one varietal I could never find was Petit Verdot.

The 2002 Januik Petit Verdot was dark claret in color with lots of black berry fruit and lots of backbone. The wine was big and structured, but not in an in-your-face way. Definitely not a fruit forward wine, but balanced and powerful. You could see why small amounts of Petit Verdot are used as a kind of pick-me-up to cab/Merlot blends. By bottling a 100% Petit Verdot, Mike was following in a proud Washington maverick winemaking tradition of experimenting with new things.

Carrying on that tradition as a wine drinker, I decided to make my own unconventional Bordeaux style blend of 50% leftover Willow Crest Cab Franc, 20% Norton Malbec and 30% Januik Petit Verdot. This really picked up the Willow Crest which was a little tired. It is easy to see why Malbec and Petit Verdot have become less popular as blending grapes. In these days of fruit forward wines, one doesn't necessarily want to do anything to distract from the intense fruitiness and incredible lightness of Merlot. If Washington wine makers want to blend for color or more fruitiness they seem to more often use ripe Syrah or sometimes Carmenere. Malbec adds color and backbone. Petit Verdot adds color, bockbone, and jazz.

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