For the first time in its history, Bordeaux is set to become a Riesling producer. The grape is normally grown much further north in France’s Alsace region and then into Germany.
In a surprise move, St Emilion’s Château Petit Val announced it will produce about 600 bottles of Bordeaux-grown Riesling under Vin de France (formerly French Table Wine) regulations.
David Liorit, Petit Val’s oenologue and director told Meininger’s that he hopes to present the wines at Bordeaux’s En Primeur tasting next year. “If we can. No one has ever done this before so we have to see what’s possible,” he said.
Unwilling to reveal the price or name of the Riesling yet, Liorit, a St. Emilion native, was careful to insist he had used only virgin hectares for the Riesling vines. “We didn’t pull up any Merlot or Cabernet. We had an area of land, just 0.3 hectares, with no vines, that we had bought and fused with Petit Val,” he said. “I didn’t know what to do with it. The soil is very rich, but quite cool and shaded. It would not have been good enough quality, or big enough, for a Petit Val second wine.”
Discussions about what to do with the land began in 2016 with Petit Val’s Alsatian owner, Olivia Alloin. “And then the idea came, why not try some Riesling?” said Liorit. Soil and rootstock tests proved optimistic and the team planted a limited Riesling vine area of 0.10 hectares that same year.
The 2019 vintage uses grapes from the first planting. A second planting the following year brings Petit Val’s total Riesling area to 0.20 hectares. Total production in 2020 is expected to reach about 1,200 bottles.
Petit Val’s wines are sold via its website and Liorit said the Riesling will be added to the site next year. It will also be distributed internationally to a small group of wine shops and restaurants. Liorit was equally reticent about the bottle shape, only saying it would be neither a typically narrow Riesling bottle, nor a Bordeaux-style one. “But something original, for sure.”
Discussing the Riesling’s aromatic profile, Liorit cited notes of pear, lemon, mimosa and lily of the valley. Not content with producing Bordeaux’s first Riesling, Liorit deployed one of the basic laws of thermodynamics for its vinification: Brownian Motion. “We used egg shaped tanks that are half steel, half oak,” he said. The shape encourages Brownian Motion, keeping the skins in suspension for longer. “That gives the wine more contact with the lees and more body,” said Liorit.
Petit Val’s total production is about 50,000 bottles a year.