Petit Verdot: The Power Player of the Bordeaux Blend

Welcome to the robust and distinctive world of Petit Verdot, a red wine grape variety that often flies under the radar but packs a considerable punch. Though often playing a supporting role in Bordeaux blends, it has stepped into the limelight in regions where it’s allowed to fully ripen, showcasing its intense flavors and deep colors.

A Brief History

Petit Verdot is one of the classic grape varieties of Bordeaux, France, where it has a history dating back centuries. Its name translates to ‘small green,’ referring to its propensity to produce small, tightly packed clusters and its challenge to ripen fully (often remaining green) in Bordeaux’s climate. However, the grape found its stride in hotter regions like California and Australia, where it produces high-quality single varietal wines.


Petit Verdot is a late-ripening grape that thrives in warm, sunny climates, where it can reach full maturity. It is known for its deep, inky color, bold tannins, and high acidity, making it a perfect blending grape in many regions. The vine tends to be vigorous, requiring careful canopy management to ensure quality.

Flavour Profile

Petit Verdot is recognized for its dense, almost chewy structure, vibrant purple-black hue, and powerful flavors. Typical flavor profiles include black fruit such as blackberries and black cherries, complemented by complex notes of violet, dried herbs, spice, and often a hint of leather or tar. The high tannin content and acidity lend Petit Verdot wines excellent aging potential.

Different Styles of Wine

Traditionally, Petit Verdot has been used sparingly in Bordeaux blends to add color, tannic structure, and an aromatic lift. However, in warmer New World regions, it’s increasingly made as a single-varietal wine, showcasing its bold, intense character and dark fruit flavors. Aging in oak barrels can lend additional complexity and soften the grape’s robust tannins.

Wine Making and Maturation Options

Winemaking with Petit Verdot often involves oak aging to help integrate the wine’s powerful tannins and add complexity. The choice of French or American oak can influence the wine’s flavor, adding notes of vanilla, smoke, or spice. Careful extraction during fermentation is crucial to manage Petit Verdot’s high tannins, and many winemakers opt for extended maceration to maximize color and flavor extraction.

Important Regions

While Bordeaux is the grape’s historical home, it is often a minor player in the region’s blends due to its late ripening. It has found considerable success in warmer climates like California’s Napa Valley and Australia’s Barossa Valley, where it ripens fully and is increasingly made as a single-varietal wine. Other regions with successful plantings include Chile, Argentina, and South Africa.

Food Pairing Suggestions

Given its bold structure and high tannins, Petit Verdot pairs well with rich, hearty dishes. Think grilled or roasted red meats, venison, lamb, or hard cheeses. Its high acidity and flavor intensity can also stand up to more flavorful, spiced dishes, making it a versatile food wine.

In a nutshell, Petit Verdot may often be a supporting actor in many a Bordeaux blend, but give it a stage like the warm climates of California or Australia, and this robust grape variety proves that it can be a star in its own right.

Take a quiz to test your knowledge

Written by

Bernard Marr has a deep passion for wine. He has written hundreds of articles on wine, including features for Forbes, covering wine-making and industry trends. Away from the world of wine, Bernard is a world-renown business and technology futurist. He is the award winning author of over 20 best-selling books and has a combined audience of nearly 4 million people across his social media channels and newsletters.

Wine Sections

Tasting and Enjoying Wine | Bernard Marr | Wine Cellar

Tasting & Enjoying Wine

Understanding Wine Making | Bernard Marr | Wine Cellar

Understanding Wine Making

Understanding Wine Regions | Bernard Marr | Wine Cellar

Understanding Wine Regions

Understanding Grape Varieties | Bernard Marr | Wine Cellar

Understanding Grape Varieties

Understanding Wine Labels | Bernard Marr | Wine Cellar

Understanding Wine Labels

The Wines of the World | Bernard Marr | Wine Cellar

The Wines of the World

Wine Trends & Technology | Bernard Marr | Wine Cellar

Wine Trends & Technology

Wine and Food Pairing | Bernard Marr | Wine Cellar

My Wine Adventures

Wine & Food Diary | Bernard Marr | Wine Cellar

Wine and Food Pairing

Wine Reviews | Bernard Marr | Wine Cellar

Wine Reviews

Some of my most memorable wines