Both Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot made a name for themselves in the Bordeaux region of France, and while lacking a close genetic relationship, they are both considered a member of the "Carmenet eco-geogroup" (thanks Jancis Robinson). Petit Verdot, or PV as we refer to it, is a somewhat fickle variety in France, ripening inconsistently and late in the season. In Virginia it has proven to be a consistently ripening, high sugar, powerhouse of a wine grape -- an interesting example of a plant that found its true niche in a place far from it's point of origin. On Mount Alto, it has shown its own unique attributes, and despite its reputation as a late ripener, this vintage it may be ready 2-3 weeks in advance of the Cabernet Sauvignon. As a result, we will kick off harvest in 2019 with the PV, and for the first time ferment the PV separate from the Cabernet.
It's not clear at the time if the difference in ripening is due to genetic differences between the grapevines, vine age, or soil differences, but our current Cab and PV soils are distinct. When we first planted our vineyard we were given the advice that Cabernet should go in the rocky dry soil, and the PV was less particular, and could tolerate (maybe even preferred) a little bit more water than is optimal for other varieties. So we planted our PV in a section of our vineyard with a little bit more clay. Our neighbors up the hill also have their PV planted in a little heavier clay soil. Both plots of PV are ripening sooner, with the “clayeyest” sections within the PV blocks ripening even earlier. So there you have it — anecdotal exhibit A.
We may pull the trigger on harvest as early as this coming Saturday, especially if hurricane Dorian forces our hand. The PV, whatever the reasons, is positively lovely this vintage.