Thursday, March 19, 2020

Petit Manseng Wines Creating A New Stir

P1070217This French grape is finding a home among the hills of North Carolina. It’s also known as Esciberou, Ichiriota Zuria Tipia or Mansic. Ring a bell?

Petit Manseng is a rather obscure white grape grown primarily in Southwest France. The berries are small with thick skin and it's often used to produce late harvest wine. The grape is gaining popularity in North Carolina as well as states like Ohio and Virginia as it is well suited to the climate and soil.

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The grapes hang in loose bunches that allows air to circulate around the fruit during hot, humid summer days. This  helps minimizes mold and rot – conditions that can ruin a grape harvest.

Petit Manseng Blind TastingWe recently had a chance to attend a Petit Manseng blind tasting and wine thrown-down hosted by Jen and Dathan of Triangle Around Town. Featured were five Petit Manseng bottles from NC and Virginia:
  • 2016 Jones von Drehle Petit Manseng (North Carolina) – A balanced wine with hints of lime and tropical fruit. A straw color with a touch of minerality. Light body.
  • 2016 Horton Vineyards Petit Manseng (Virginia) – Light gold in color. Refreshing on the palate with a touch of sweetness and a rich body.
  • 2018 Jefferson Vineyards Petit Manseng (Virginia) – Pronounced intensity with threads of honey, ginger and citrus. Light gold in color with platinum highlights. This wine delivered the goods and was my top pick of the night!
  • 2018 Williamsburg Winery Petit Manseng (Virginia) – Plenty of acidity and complexity in this wine, which was the favorite of several attendees.
  • 2017 Jones von Drehle Petit Manseng Barrel Select (North Carolina) – This is a very popular wine for Jones von Drehle. There are pronounced floral and oak flavors. This was also a top pick for the group, while some (yours truly included) felt the ABV was a bit too high.

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The take-away from the tasting is that Petit Manseng is breaking into the mainstream. Often used to create sweet wines or in blends, Petit Manseng can stand on its own as a versatile and beautiful grape. I didn’t realize its popularity in Virginia, which some time ago adopted Viognier as its “signature” grape. The wines we tasted should make Virginia rethink its choice!

P1070206In North Carolina, Petit Manseng is trending as a popular pick for winemakers. Its characteristics mean Petit Manseng is less susceptible to disease in the vineyard. High acidity allows additional hang time on the vine where it can develop some nicely nuanced flavors.

About a half dozen North Carolina wineries sell Petit Manseng and several more vineyards grow it. If you haven’t yet tried Petit Manseng, treat yourself to a bottle made with this up-and-coming grape.

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