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What our expert thought of Costanza di Mineo, Cor Leon, Petit Verdot

about this wine About this wine
Petit Verdot is the Cinderella of red Bordeaux varieties.  She was there before her ugly stepsisters Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, and was one of the main varieties in the pre-phylloxera Bordeaux blend before they took over.  Today she’s relegated to the corner of a few vineyards in the Left Bank and gets used as a seasoning in their blends, typically at 1% to 3% of the mix and never more than 6%.
There are good reasons for this.  Petit Verdot is a low-yielding variety that flowers early, making it prone to frost damage and millerandage. This occurs when cold, wet weather restricts fertilisation, causing the affected flowers to develop into tiny seedless grapes that ripen more slowly than normal ones and usually remain green.  This gave rise to its name, which means “little green”.
It ripens so late that in some years it can’t be used at all, and only achieves full ripeness about one year in four.  Even then its small, thick-skinned berries are ferociously tannic.  They’re also very deeply coloured, powerfully flavoured and intensely aromatic, so even in tiny quantities they still add value to the blend.
Nevertheless, this variety seems so ill-matched to the Bordeaux climate that some have suggested it was brought here by the Romans, from some warmer Mediterranean home.  To find out what unblended Petit Verdot tastes like, we have to leave Bordeaux for somewhere like that.
Sicily seems to suit this grape. It’s one of the few places in Europe outside Bordeaux to have any Petit Verdot planted at all, and one of even fewer to produce unblended wines from it.
This is one of those select handful, produced by winemaker Nicola Tucci of Costanza di Mineo.  The fruit comes from an organically-farmed vineyard near the coast at Mazara del Vallo, carefully tended by their viticulturalist Pino Oddo.
Sicily’s rugged terrain means that even this coastal vineyard is perched between 85m and 110m up, facing southwest out towards Tunisia.  The maritime influence may remind Petit Verdot of home, but the heat, southern exposure and sandy soil mean that here it can ripen reliably every year.
the tasting The Tasting
True to the grape’s reputation, this is a really deep ruby colour.  It’s perhaps a little less black than a Cabernet Sauvignon, but more intensely red.
The pronounced nose is sharp but sweet, almost port-like.  There are sharp red fruits (redcurrants), pine needles and juniper berries.  In fact it smells rather like sloe gin!  Beneath those scents lie the vanilla and chocolate notes of oak.
The nose may hint at sweetness but the palate is dry and full-bodied, with medium acidity and big herby flavours of black fruits and stewed plums.
These lead to a long sweet finish where ripe but firm tannins can be felt around the gums.
Now I understand why this grape is only used in single digit percentages in Bordeaux.  Put 20% of this in a blend and it would completely dominate; you wouldn’t be able to taste anything else.
This is an awful lot of wine for the money, and a great illustration of what Sicily can offer.

Tasting notes

very deep ruby

Intensity pronounced

Aromas sharp red fruits (redcurrants), port-like sweetness, pine needles, juniper berries (sloe gin!), oak (vanilla, chocolate)

Development developing

Sweetness dry

Acidity medium

Body full

Tannins medium+

Intensity pronounced

Flavours black fruits, stewed plums

Length long

Flavours as palate, sweet, tannins
Other notes
Will keep for up to 5 years

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