Petit Verdot is typically used as a blending grape that provides color and concentration in Bordeaux, California, and other wines – a small percentage of it is often listed in the fine print in red blends in which Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc play leading roles.
But throughout the wine world, it is also made as a single-varietal wine (bottled on its own), and you can find it from Spain, Portugal, Italy, Australia, Chile, Argentina, and, of course, the United States.
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One area where it is gaining a foothold in this country is Washington State. For an excellent, affordable introduction, it’s worth trying Cameron Hughes’s “Lot 638” Petit Verdot from the Yakima Valley.
If you’re not familiar with it, Cameron Hughes – the name of the company and the man behind it – is an American wine négociant, or wine trader, that acquires wines from producers all over the world and sells them under the Cameron Hughes label, each with its own “lot” number. It doesn’t own vineyards or a winery. The model is perhaps best known in France’s Burgundy region, where négociant wines have always been a part of the landscape.
As a négociant, Cameron Hughes does away with the middlemen – distributors, wholesalers, retailers – and sells them directly to consumers at substantial savings, it claims.
Having sampled a number of Cameron Hughes wines in recent weeks, the Lot 638 Petit Verdot, from a single vineyard in the Yakima Valley, stands out for its quality and value at just $15.
With concentrated dark-berry fruit, especially blackberry and black currant, there’s a touch of graphite and lots of spice and floral notes. Its grippy tannins smooth out and soften as the wine breathes in the glass; decanting might be a good idea for this one. Alcohol is listed at 14.4 percent but doesn’t call attention to itself.
This is a bold, red-meat kind of wine, almost demanding something just off the grill – T-bones, leg of lamb, even duck breasts come to mind.