Petit manseng magic

Petit Manseng grapes (Photo: A march in the vines website)

In a recent tasting of Symphony Hill Wines from the Granite Belt in Queensland’s hinterland, I was extremely impressed by their petit manseng. It is a variety that you don’t come across very often, but it is a delight to drink when you find a good one.

Petit manseng is a late-ripening white grape with small berries, and consequently produces better quality wine than its higher yielding relative gros manseng, which as the name implies, has larger berries.

Petit manseng’s flavours are distinct and captivating and its aromas fragrant and alluring. Honey, stone fruits, figs, red apple, plus a little citrus can often be seen, alongside a defined line of acidity. It makes excellent aromatic dry wines with depth. However, its ability to retain acidity, allows it to be highly successful in the production of fine sweet wine of the non-botrytised kind, which often has excellent cellaring potential.

The South West of France is its spiritual home, where it is used in the appellations of Irouléguy, Béarn, Tursan, Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh and Jurancon. In some of these appellations, it is blended with other varieties.

It works well as a fresh, crisp white wine, though is highly praised for its ability to make luscious sweet wines. One of the most prestigious, and expensive, versions is the Didier Daguenau Les Jardins de Babylone, from the Jurancon, a rare sweet wine held in high regard.

There is also a little found in the Languedoc, Spain, America and a tiny amount in Argentina, Uruguay and Japan. In New Zealand, look out for wines from Churton and Spade Oak.

There are a handful of producers in Australia. Gestalt incorporate it into a blend called ‘The Fugue’ and Fighting Gully Road make a sweet style, Petit Manseng Moelleux, available almost exclusively in fine restaurants. Ringer Reef produces an off-dry version. Other producers include Gapsted Wines, Symphonia, Bassham Wines, Toppers Mountain, Whistling Kite, Sud de Frank, 919 Wines, Chrismont and Word of Mouth. Crittenden Wines uses it to create ‘Los Hermanos Saludos’, a light, aromatic white.

Varietals such as this add colour to our vinous landscape, and it is good to support the producers taking the path less travelled.

If your interest is piqued, I recommend trying the Symphony Hill version. Serve chilled alongside a pork terrine and let the flavours unfold and delight.

Symphony Hill Wines Petit Manseng 2015

Aromatically pleasing with good intensity. Most of the flavour is upfront, with notes of honey, ripe fig and white nectarine, though there is a little delicious grapefruit and spice on the finish. The acidity is bright and balanced. Good purity, freshness and vibrancy. (AUD $30)

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