MONO-VARIETAL wines are wines made from just one grape and they can be the trickiest wines to get right.
This week I’m recommending two – a Petit Verdot from South Africa and a Pinot Noir from California.
There has been a history of France’s lesser grapes, particularly those used historically in Bordeaux, appearing in the New World as single varietals.
Malbec, once used in Bordeaux, is now almost non-existent in France, apart from the south west where it makes Cahors.
Theoretically it is still allowed in Bordeaux or even in Loire blends where it has been largely superseded by Cabernet Franc.
Now, of course, Malbec’s stronghold is in Argentina where the sunshine and elevation seem to suit it particularly well.
Petit Verdot, which still has a presence in Bordeaux as a blending agent is also finding a welcome home in hotter climes such as Australia and South Africa.
This may be because it is a thick skinned variety that is very late ripening, even more so than Cabernet Sauvignon, and therefore enjoys the long summers. Its peculiarities make 100 per cent Petit Verdot rare because if not fully ripened the grape will make a very astringent green wine. When everything goes to plan, however, it’s capable of making a wine of complexity and depth.
KWV The Mentors Petit Verdot 2014 (£14.95, Ocado, Slurp, SH Jones)
This wine, made in Stellenbosch South Africa, is made to a style that will please lovers of big, oak-scented reds but it’s no over-extracted brute.
A challenging vintage, including a late flowering in spring, held up the harvest of late- ripening grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot.
But sometimes lower yields in a difficult year can produce wines that have great flavour, intensity and structure.
A rigorous selection process when sorting through the grapes has also helped produce a wine that is impressively bold but one that retains elegance.
It has a pronounced cedary quality on the nose very much in a Bordeaux style.
But there’s also a floral note and a little spice and vanilla.
The palate is dark cherry and plum but there’s a bright blackcurrant sheen to the fruit as well.
I’d suggest that this would be a great match for roast beef.
Pinot Noir could hardly be called one of France’s lesser grapes.
In fact, there are many who believe it is France’s greatest grape; capable of producing some of the sexiest wines on the planet. But fine Burgundy, perhaps the finest expression of Pinot, is expensive.
For Pinot at the cheaper end of the market it’s sometimes best to head elsewhere.
Parker Station Pinot Noir 2015 (£13.50 The Wine Society and £14.50 Amathus Drinks )
This is about as good as it gets at this price for Pinot Noir. The wine is made by the Parker family using grapes from cooler-climate sites in Monterey, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties – if you’ve ever seen the film Sideways you’ll be in the right area if you think of the vineyards depicted there.
On the nose there’s charcoal and clove with a little toasty oak and some spice.
The palate bursts with sweetish red fruits while a little black tea and soft tannins adds a nice balance.
KWV Mentors Petit Verdot 2014