The French Petit Verdot grape conquers Málaga
Our article for Kosta Magazine
The originally French Petit Verdot is a late-ripe, small, blue grape with a firm skin and low yield that is among the best grapes in the world. Due to its late-maturing character, the grape thrives excellently (actually much better) in warm climates such as those in Spain, Australia and California, for example. Similarly in the province of Malaga, with its distinctly sunny climate with warm days until late fall. The Petit Verdot makes a true rise in the province; more and more bodegas make beautiful, powerful red wines out of it. The grape is a flavoring power of the first order and provides much tannins for a long shelf life of the wine. Provided that it is well and fully aged, Petit Verdot is a guarantee for deep red, robust and full-bodied wines with a unique character. In blends or as a powerhouse, entirely based on her own assets. A crackling fire, a steaming pot on the stove and a bottle of Petit Verdot turn a cold winter evening into a big party.
Tough grape conquers the warm world
The Petit Verdot grape is originally from the Pyrenees and was introduced to the French Medoc, to play its modest but special role in the great Bordeaux wines. Traditionally it is one of the five grapes from which the Bordeaux wines are made; cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, malbec and petit verdot. Because of the too cool climate, the grape only comes to full maturity once every 3 to 4 years. Due to its late ripening and low yield, it is a grape with a high risk factor for many winemakers. But the reward if it succeeds is therefore all the better.
Marques de Griňon (Toledo) was the first bodega in Spain to add the grape to its blends (wine from different grape varieties, coupage in Spanish). Especially in Jumilla (wine region in the vicinity of Alicante) the grape was quickly applied. Petit Verdot is now also making a heady advance in the province of Malaga
Petit Verdot is regularly used to give red wines a little more power, color and depth. Experts believe that Petit Verdot makes the difference in a good year between a fantastic and a fabulous wine. In the province of Malaga – just as in Jumilla – also because of the higher yields and the good maturation, wines are made from only Petit Verdot (‘monovarietal’, in Spanish). True powerhouses with ‘body’ and strong tannins. There are a number of enthusiasts who particularly appreciate these wines because of their unique character.
In terms of taste, the grape resembles the syrah: spicy, full and complex. The grape has many tannins, so the wines in which this grape is processed often have a long aging time. When they are young they still feel stiff and give the tannins a sticky, rough and dry mouthfeel. Then to decompose at a later age and to blend in perfectly with the other taste sensations of the wine. The more than sufficient acids supplied by the grape also contribute to the aging potential. Petit Verdot produces powerful, full-bodied deep red wines with notes of ripe, black fruit (blueberries, black cherries, blue plums), smoke, spices, cedar and leather. Often also spicy with pepper. Excellent combination with game, tournedos, lamb, steak, seasoned pork and hard cheeses.
Bodega Vetas shows the way
The vast majority of Petit Verdot vineyards in the province are located in the Ronda area. Due to the height of the vineyards at around 800 meters, the climate is characterized by the good balance of warm days and cool nights. Bodega Vetas in Ronda is the pioneer when it comes to the introduction of Petit Verdot in the province of Malaga. The owner Juan Manuel Vetas, born and raised in Avila (Madrid) immigrated to the Medoc in France at a young age and worked for various prestigious chateaux. There he got to know the promises and secrets of Petit Verdot. He returned to Ronda in the late 1990s to make wine with the famous Prince of Hohenlohe. Eventually he started his own bodega, Vetas, with the first wine to be one hundred percent Petit Verdot (‘monovarietal’). With the knowledge of his native soil about terroir and climate and the knowledge gained in Medoc, he was the perfect person to introduce Petit Verdot to the province. The bodega now makes three wines. Seleccion, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. His younger brother’s name is very suitably Junior. But the most emblematic wine and the bodega’s trademark remains the 100% Petit Verdot, which is only made in the years that the grape fully ripens. A sensational wine that can be counted among the best in its category in the world.
Petit Verdot conquers the province of Malaga
Various bodegas followed bodega Vetas. Some have no vineyards in the area of Ronda but buy their grapes there and then make the wine at the location of their own bodega. Bodega Dimobe from Moclinejo (Axarquia) makes a somewhat stiff but beautiful 100% Petit Verdot, Finca la Indiana. Wines made entirely from Petit Verdot are not among the cheapest, partly due to the low returns. This wine has an excellent price / quality ratio. This also applies to the softer version of Bodega La Capuchina from Mollina (Zona Norte). Bodegas Bentomiz from Sayalonga (Axarquia), makes a downright peppery 100% Petit Verdot, called Ariyanas Tinto Petit Verdot. Beautiful expression of fruit with floral aromas of rose. Bodega Samsara (Ronda) is a project of 4 young winemakers who work from a completely organic / biodynamic philosophy. The bodega owns only 4 hectares of vineyard with beautiful views of the famous Tago of Ronda. The vineyard is practically light. The 100% Petit Verdot of this bodega is light-hearted, a playful orchestra of red fruit but at the same time intense deep dark ripe fruit and spices, bathed in soft crackling tannins.
Not to be mentioned is Tadeo, 100% Petit Verdot from Ronda’s leading bodega Cortijo los Aguilares. A high quality wine, which, like Vetas, brings everything that can be expected from such a wine.
Pago El Espino comes from the same bodega. An exciting combination of Petit Verdot, Syrah and Tempranillo. The amount of Petit Verdot in this blend can go up to 50% per year, which makes this wine unique in its kind.
Bodega Victoria Ordoňez, from Malaga, makes Marti-Aguilar 2016 (the name is a homage to the mother of winemaker Victoria Ordoňez), also a blend of Petit Verdot (60%), Syrah and Tempranillo. In this case the Petit Verdot grapes do not come from Ronda but from the Montes de Malaga. This bodega brings plenty of old vineyards to life in that area.
The wines described form a selection of the Petit Verdot offer from the province of the moment. In addition to the other wines, it is to be expected that more and more bodegas will embrace Petit Verdot and its unique properties in the future. In and around Ronda and perhaps beyond. Terroir, climate and young, enthusiastic winemakers offer good opportunities for this. It fits in with the renewed development of Malaga as an area of origin of quality wines from high-quality red wines (in addition to the well-known sweet wines, for example). Petit Verdot, the small, beautiful powerhouse from France, deserves it, but especially the enthusiasts who enjoy eating wine and culinary delights in the company of fire and winter weather.2