Most often featured in the supporting cast of a Bordeaux-style red blend, the Petit Verdot grape can perform quite well as a 100 percent single vineyard wine. Bodega Garzón, a stunning, sustainable winery built into the ballast hills surrounding the charming Uruguayan town 11 miles from the Atlantic Ocean, took a chance on this largely unknown varietal and challenged it to perform.
2017 was a good year for Petit Verdot in Uruguay. A late bloomer that also, logically, ripens late, it survived Uruguay’s rainy January, producing fruit with rich tannins in serendipitous balance with its plush dark fruit flavors. A rare find, this single-vineyard Petit Verdot wine shows capabilities far beyond that of grapes grown in European climates. Ergo, what may often be seen as a simple blending choice in the Old-World style of Bordeaux wines turns the corner when exposed to the warm, sunny climates in Australia, Chile, California, and, in this case, Uruguay.
A Perfect Place for Petit Verdot
The granite mother rock, the ocean breezes, and the deep biodiversity of this Atlantic coastal region combine to create a complex environment nurturing an elegant wine. While the winery is relatively new, that seems to work in its favor as the LEED certification encouraged the use of new technologies embracing sustainability, energy efficiency, and a gravity system to feed its 1,150 small (just 0.2 hectares), naturally terraced vineyards.
Winery owner Alejandro Bulgheroni sought the advice of renown winemaker Alberto Antonini on matching selected patches of his Garzón estate with specific varieties of Vitis vinifera. Alberto struck up a solid relationship with the winery and has continued to act as a consultant regarding important winemaking decisions.
Selecting northern-facing plots for the single vineyard Petit Verdot, they planted and waited. Rewards have come in the form of bountiful harvests from twelve different varieties of grapes, but the Petit Verdot holds particular promise. The 2017 harvest was crushed and fermented in concrete tanks, then transferred for 12-18 months on the lees as it mellowed in French oak. The intention was to make a wine that accurately and clearly reflected the terroir, keeping the tannins intact. The result? This vintage is a very nice, very tannic, very drinkable wine. Additional details and purchasing options are available on Wine.com.
As with any powerful red wine, we prepared to serve griddled goat cheese in the style of South American chef Francis Mallmann, along with a classic kebab recipe of lamb with streaky bacon, garlic, and sage. After opening the wine and allowing it a few moments with its new environment, first sips prompted comments about the strong tannins.
After another ten minutes, alongside the warm cheese with sea salt crackers, the wine received many complements about the brisk tannins working well with the cheese, enhanced by the sea salt, but the best was yet to come.
Taking the first bites of the succulent squares of grilled lamb, we chased it down with another few sips of the Petit Verdot. Consensus awarded this one of our favorite pairings in recent memory, finding the juicy, rosemary and pepper seasoned lamb an excellent intro for the tannic sips of Petit Verdot. With three red wine fans and one white, all proclaimed this combination of salt, fat, and acid a successful experiment we hoped to repeat.
Grilled Lamb Skewers
Lamb and Marinade:
Boneless leg of lamb, about 5 lbs.
½ c extra-virgin olive oil
¼ c lemon juice
¼ c honey
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 white onion, chopped
Sage or rosemary, chopped
2 large white onions cut into 2-inch squares
1 orange bell pepper cut into 2-inch squares
1 red bell pepper cut into 2-inch squares
1 pint cherry tomatoes
8 oz button mushrooms
Wooden skewers, soaked in water 30 min
Trim fat from lamb and cut into 2-inch cubes. Combine olive oil, lemon juice, honey, garlic, onion, and sage or rosemary in bowl with cover or zip-loc bag. Mix well. Add lamb cubes to bag, tossing gently to coat. Cover or seal and marinate 2 hours or overnight in refrigerator, occasionally turning the mixture.
Preheat grill to medium heat. Remove lamb from refrigerator 30 minutes before grilling, bringing the mixture to room temperature.
Assemble the kabobs by filling skewers alternating between peppers, lamb, tomatoes, onions, and mushrooms. Grill skewers, turning to char all sides to desired doneness, about 7-8 minutes, or test with thermometer: 120° F for rare, 130° F for medium, 150° F for well done.