Petit Verdot Explained: Why This Red Wine Should Be on Your Radar

Petit Verdot grapes hanging on vines
Photo: Getty Images/Klaus Vedfelt

Petit Verdot doesn’t get the attention it deserves. It’s more often than not a supporting actor, lending color and richness to other reds — but that doesn’t mean it can’t shine on its own. In fact, a growing number of producers around the world are exploring ways to bring its best qualities to the fore even as a varietally labeled wine, and their efforts have been remarkable. Whether unaccompanied or as part of a blend, Petit Verdot’s time seems to have arrived.

What Is Petit Verdot Wine?

Petit Verdot is any wine produced from the grape variety of the same name. Historically, however, it has been most importantly used as a part of red blends — it’s most famously one of the five main red grape varieties permitted in Bordeaux, alongside the far more famous Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Malbec. Yet it’s not uncommon to find it in other parts of the world, too, lending color, tannin, and richness to wines that are often labeled with another grape variety’s name. (In California, for example, a wine only has to be composed of a minimum of 75% of a grape variety to be labeled as such. Because of this, more Napa Cabs than you might imagine are supplemented with other varieties, and Petit Verdot is often among them.)

Where Does Petit Verdot Wine Come From?

Petit Verdot is most famously grown in Bordeaux, where it lends color and richness to blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot. (Malbec, the other main permitted red grape variety in Bordeaux, is also used as a blending partner there, not usually as the star in any particular blend.) As has been mentioned, it also frequently appears in uncredited roles in the great Cabernet Sauvignons of Napa Valley — just a percentage or three goes a long way.

Petit Verdot also can sing in Israel. There, producers like Shiloh, Psâgot, and Yatir are leading the way with the variety, crafting reds of generosity, age-worthiness, and complexity. The best Petit Verdots of Australia also leverage the variety’s power. And in the Tuscan Coast, particularly Maremma and Bolgheri, its role as a blending partner is similar to what it is in Bordeaux, if not as widespread. Tenuta Prima Pietra and Torciano make notable wines that incorporate the variety. It also can be found in Spain and Chile, among other places.

Why Should You Drink Petit Verdot Wine?

You probably already do! Petit Verdot’s ability to lend power, color, structure, and depth to other grape varieties makes it a popular choice for blends and to supplement varietally labeled wines, even if its name doesn’t always (or even all that often, in these cases) appear on the label. Yet whether you’re enjoying Petit Verdot in a blend or on its own, it is one of the most under-appreciated yet important red grape varieties around.

In fact, focusing on wines that are made with some (or entirely composed of) Petit Verdot is a great way to expand the geographical breadth of your wine-drinking life. Doing so will take you to France, Italy, Israel, Australia, Chile, and beyond. And it doesn’t have to cost a fortune to find a great one.

What Does Petit Verdot Taste Like?

Petit Verdot tends to produce a powerful, deeply colored red wine with notes of plums, blackberries, dark-cherry liqueur, sweet and woodsy spice, and touches of licorice or star anise. Violets and more earthy notes are also common, dried herbs may be found, and its tannins tend to lend greater structure to varieties like Merlot, for example.

Given its tannic structure, Petit Verdot is useful at the table for pairing with fat- and protein-rich foods, which soften the tannins in the wines, and whose tannins cut through that hearty food. Given its structure, decanting Petit Verdot is often a good idea; the oxygenation will soften up its texture, making it a bit smoother on its own. Just be careful of serving temperature for Petit Verdot, whose tannins will be perceived as astringent if it’s too close to cellar temp. Best to allow that chill to mostly dissipate before enjoying the wine.

Five Great Petit Verdot Wines

There are countless great Petit Verdot wines on the market today. These five producers, listed alphabetically, are a perfect way to start exploring all that Petit Verdot has to offer.

Château Lafon-Rochet

Ranked as a Fourth Growth in the 1855 Classification, this estate is a reliable source of well-crafted wine. A barrel sample of the 2021, a Cabernet Sauvignon-based blend with a single percentage point of Petit Verdot, shows real promise. Hints of sage and thyme lend lift to the sarsaparilla-flecked tannins that frame flavors of blood orange, red and black currants, and graphite. It’s all so lively and vibrant. Well worth acquiring once it’s released.

Moss Wood

The great Margaret River producer is known as one of the top estates of Western Australia, and their 2017 Amy’s blend, which brings together 69% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 11% Malbec, and 5% Petit Verdot, is an affordable winner. Even at five years of age, it’s still vibrant and full of mouthwatering acidity that perk up flavors of mountain berries, tart cherries, hints of purple flowers and oregano, and the suggestion of pencil shavings. It’s a tremendous value for just over $30.

Roy Estate

With an estate vineyard located to the south of Napa’s Stags Leap District, Roy Estate has become something of a cult producer. No wonder: The wines are crafted by Philippe Melka, the site itself is excellent, and the wines justify the hype. The 2019 Mr. Evans Proprietary Red, a Cabernet Sauvignon-based blend with 24% Merlot and 11% Petit Verdot, is a full-throttle, utterly delicious gem. It’s a plush, velvety wine that practically drips with blackberry liqueur, dark-chocolate ganache, toasted vanilla pods, cedar, warm-slate minerality, cigar humidor, sachertorte with a fine layer of raspberry coulis beneath the chocolate, and kirsch. It all resolves in a long, lingering finish that promises 20 to 25 years of evolution.


In 1995, Robert Mondavi and Eduardo Chadwich launched Seña, their Chilean project to produce a top-quality wine in the Valle de Aconcagua. The 2019 Seña Seña represents the 25th vintage of the project (the 1995 was released in 1997), and this blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Malbec, 15% Carmenere, and 4% Petit Verdot is a worthy wine to commemorate the quarter-century anniversary. It’s a notably silky wine, with impeccable balance between pomegranate seeds, black raspberries, and tart cherries alongside notes of blood oranges, bergamot, and candied violets, all of it gently vibrating with a hint of pepper through the long, mouth-watering finish.

Shiloh Winery

Shiloh is located in what was known as Samaria in ancient times, and even today, in one of their vineyards, there is an ancient stone grape-crushing trough that’s been there for thousands of years. The 2018 Secret Reserve Petit Verdot shines with blackberry liqueur and kirsch, sweet spice, and a framing of sappy tannins. The long finish promises years of evolution ahead, but it’s delicious already—there’s no need to wait.

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