VintageTexas Sunday ‘Cyclopedia of Wine: What is and isn’t in the word “Petit”
Petit (pronounced puh-tee), it’s French for “little” or “small”, and when applied to wine, it can also infer something inferior. An example is a petit vin, which translates to “small wine” is actually inferred to be a wine of lesser quality; e.g. low in alcohol and deficient in body.
However, the word petit is also used in combination with lots of other wine terms. Here are a few that you might find interesting and useful as you experience the world of wine:
Petit Chablis (peh-tee shab-blee) – An agreeable, but otherwise short-lived white wine made in the Cablis district of France. It is pale and dry, but can be very refreshing when consumed in its youth. It derives from an area in Chablis where the soil is less chalky and the exposure is inferior to wines made and labeled “Chablis”. Look for Petit Chablis wines to be interest and a value only in good vintage years in the Chablis district of France.
Petit Château (peh-tee shat-toe) – A French term used in Bordeaux and by wine merchants and consumers. It is used to denote a lesser winegrowing property or estate, but in the USA it tends to be used at times to describe any moderately priced château-bottled Bordeaux wine from Medoc (crus bourgeois) or Saint-Emilion (grand cru) where the term reflects the lower price rather than its appellation.
Petit Verdot (peh-tee var-doe) – A red wine grape grown in Bordeaux used in limited quantities for blending. It is utilized for its full-bodied character and to induce deep coloration and tannic structure (particularly in the mid-palate) of Cabernet and Merlot-based wines. It ripens much later than the other varieties in Bordeaux, and has fallen out of favor in Bordeaux. It has found use in the new world (e.g. Argentina, Chile and Australia). Petit Verdot is a more consistent producer in warmer climates where it is a reliably ripening grape. Producers are starting to experiment with single varietals in “The Other 46” states with plantings in Colorado, Texas, Virginia and Missouri, and Washington.
Petit Sirah (peh-teet see-rah) – A name given to a red-wine grape by Californian grape growers and winemakers where it was presumed to be of the Syrah grape family from the northern Rhône Valley of France. However, it has now been positively identified as Durif, a lesser known French grape variety introduced in southern France over a century ago. Durif originated as a cross of Syrah pollen germinating a Peloursin grapevine. It produces tannic, dark (nearly opaque) wines with spicy and plummy flavors. Petit Sirah has become popular in many new wine growing areas in the USA including Washington, Maryland, Arizona, Texas.
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