Pétrus (wine)

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Statue decora depicting St. Peter on the wall of the "château" Petrus.
Close up of wooden wine crate used to ship bottles of Petrus.
A bottle of Petrus 1982.

Petrus is a Bordeaux wine estate located in the Pomerol appellation near its eastern border to Saint-Émilion. An estate of limited size, it produces a limited production red wine entirely from Merlot grapes since the end of 2010 and produces no second wine. The estate belongs to Jean-François Moueix and his children.

Although the wines of Pomerol have never been classified, Petrus is widely regarded as the outstanding wine of the appellation by consensus,[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8] and leads a duo of Pomerol estates of extreme prices, along with Le Pin, that in the modern era are consistently among the world's most expensive wines.[9][10]

History[edit]

1931 presentation card with the designs of the early 20th century, the label, cork, case and capsule markings.

Originally a 7-hectare (17-acre) vineyard,[1] the estate was owned by the Arnaud family since the end of the 18th Century,[7] and the name first appears in records from 1837.[5] In the 1868 edition of Cocks & Féret, under listing Crus bourgeois et 1ers artisans Château Petrus was ranked behind Vieux Château Certan and alongside Château Trotanoy.[4] Some vintages of this period were labelled Petrus-Arnaud.[9] At the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1878, Petrus won a gold medal,[3] at a time when such an event had great consequence, establishing a selling price at the level of a Médoc second growth,[4] the first wine of Pomerol to do so.[1]

In 1917, the Arnaud family had to sell and La Société Civile du Château Petrus, a share-holding company was set up. Around 1925, the owner of the Hôtel Loubat in Libourne, the widow Mme. Edmond Loubat, began to buy shares in the estate and continued the acquisition progressively until 1940, when she became the sole owner of the domaine.[7][11]

According to David Peppercorn, "the great age of Petrus" began with the end of World War II and the successful 1945 vintage.[1] Jean-Pierre Moueix of the Libourne négociant house Établissements Jean-Pierre Moueix acquired exclusive selling rights of Petrus in that year and the international reputation of Petrus began to grow.[11] Mme. Loubat, who also owned Château Latour à Pomerol, remained an active vigneronne throughout her life, known for her meticulous dedication to detail and quality, and strong determination that her wine deserved to be priced equal to the great crus.[1][2][7][8]

In the following years the efficient partnership with Moueix became prosperous.[8][9][10] Petrus became introduced to the United States,[5] [12] In 1947 Mme. Loubat presented 2 magnums of 1938 Petrus to the Lord Mayor of London, who had come to Pomerol for a visit, for the wedding of Princess Elisabeth. After the 1956 winter frost that devastated the grapevines of the Bordeaux region and killed two-thirds of the Petrus vineyard,[6] Mme. Loubat decided not to replant but to coppice (cut back severely) the vines on surviving rootstocks; this process of recépage had been previously untried in the region;[6] her success ensured that the vines' average age remained high and established a tradition that has since been followed.[5][9]

Petrus' fame in the U.S. grew in the 1960s, with the promotion by Henri Soulé, owner of the restaurant Le Pavillon in New York. According to Alexis Lichine, "[Petrus] was served at Le Pavillon in the days when Onassis sat at a corner table. After that, Château Petrus became a status symbol, the sort of name dropped by people who wish to imply not only that they know wine but that they are in wine".[13]

On the death of Mme. Loubat in 1961, the estate was divided between a niece and nephew, Mme. Lily Lacoste-Loubat and M. Lignac, and a share was left to JP Moueix to allow for equality between the two heirs, thought to be in conflict, and to ensure Moueix' continued influence.[6] For a period the estate was represented by the niece,[1][5] but in 1964, JP Moueix bought the Lignac shares,[11] and the oenologist Jean-Claude Berrouet became permanently attached to Petrus.[9][14] Prior to this, Émile Peynaud had been employed as a part-time consultant.[15] In 1969, 5 hectares (12 acres) of vineyard were added to the estate, purchased from neighbouring Château Gazin.[1][9][11]

The Petrus country house.

Following the death of Jean-Pierre Moueix in 2003, his son Jean-François Moueix, head of Groupe Duclot, is the owner of Petrus together with his children and since 2014 controls distribution worldwide via Clés Distribution. When Jean-Claude Berrouet retired as technical director after 45 vintages in 2008 he was replaced by his son Olivier Berrouet who now manages the vineyard and the wine making.

Production[edit]

Petrus vineyards.

The vineyard of Petrus extends 11.4 hectares (28 acres) and is located on a plateau in the eastern portion of Pomerol. The grape variety distribution is 100% Merlot since the end of 2010.[9]

Located on top of a 20-hectare (49-acre) island mound, the Petrus boutonnière or buttonhole, the topsoil and the subsoil beneath Petrus' original vineyards consists of a high percentage of iron-rich clay that differs from neighbouring vineyards where the soil is a mixture of gravel-sand or clay-sand.

The average age of the vines exceed 40 years.[5][9] Grapes are hand harvested over two to three days,[9] although the vineyard's small size permits harvesting to be completed in one day if necessary.[11]

A severe pre-assemblage vat selection is carried out and certain parcels are rejected from the Grand Vin. The young wine is aged in 50% new French oak barrels for 12 to 16 months.[9][11] An average year might yield at most 30 000 bottles.

In popular culture[edit]

  • The producers of the 2004 film Sideways had originally wanted the character Miles Raymond's treasure bottle to be a Petrus, which ultimately became a 1961 Château Cheval Blanc. Moueix stated, "Quite a few film scripts cross my desk and I vaguely recall Sideways asking for permission to use Petrus. I am afraid that at that time, I found the script unexciting and declined".[16][17]
  • The seventh season finale of Frasier, "Something Borrowed, Someone Blue", featured the main characters receiving a 1945 Château Petrus, appraised on-sight by Frasier Crane as "one of the rarest bottles in the world", as a gift from the widow of their recently deceased doorman Morrie. The characters deduce that he must have saved it for years waiting for an occasion he deemed special or appropriate enough, eventually dying without having opened it, and themselves vow not to make the same mistake. The bottle is gifted between them several times over the course of the episode.[18]
  • A bottle of Château Petrus, 1946, is mentioned in the Law & Order: Criminal Intent episode "Tuxedo Hill" (May 2002) as being worth $11,000.00[19] by Michael Gergen.
  • Bruce Anderson, a cocky character in Alexander McCall Smith's novel Espresso Tales, goes into the wine business through buying three cases of Petrus, 1990, at the price of £1,700, out of the trunk of a friend's car.[20]
  • Councilman Richmond offers a glass of Petrus Pomerol '77 to Detective Linden in Ep. 12 of the US TV series The Killing.
  • In "Rendezvous", an episode of television series Alias, a cultured captive requests a glass of 1982 Petrus.
  • in the U.K. television series Heartbeat episode "The Open Door", a guest at a stately bed and breakfast is offered drinks on house by a woman looking after the house. He asks for a red wine and the waiter is told to grab "the shortest name in the cellar as they are usually cheaper". The guest is presented with a bottle of Petrus which is claimed as "good enough, bring another up for later".
  • A bottle of Petrus is seen over the nightstand of Johny Marco's room in the movieSomewhere directed by Sofia Coppola.
  • In the radio series Cabin Pressure, episode S02E07 "Cabin Pressure at Christmas", a wealthy business man brings a bottle of Petrus 2005 on board the plane, requesting for it to be served to him. The aeroplane owner decides to give him some stock wine as "everyone's palate is shot at 35000 feet" and gifts the bottle during Secret Santa.
  • In Thomas Harris' novel Hannibal, serial killer Hannibal Lecter enjoys a bottle of Petrus (year unspecified) after preparing a tasty tenderloin from either a deer or a deer hunter.
  • In Safe House, Denzel Washington shares a glass of 1972 Petrus with another spy.
  • In Umineko: When They Cry episode 4 the character Beatrice mentions a 1947 bottle of Petrus, claiming the value is equivalent to a 10 kilogram ingot of gold.
  • In the 2013 movie Red 2 starring Bruce Willis, the character named "The Frog" ( played by David Thewlis) is threatened by the other characters by having his Petrus bottles destroyed one by one if he does not reveal information. They were a 1945 and 1947.
  • In the 2014 film The Riot Club, about a fictional Oxford elite dining society, the character Alistair Ryle is made to drink a glass of Pétrus full of vile" dregs" as ritual initiation. He is, however, still able to deduce the year of the wine as 1976.
Footnotes
  1. ^ a b c d e f g Peppercorn, David (2003). Bordeaux. London: Mitchell Beazley. pp. 519–523. ISBN 1-84000-927-6. 
  2. ^ a b Lichine, Alexis (1967). Alexis Lichine's Encyclopedia of Wines and Spirits (1st ed.). London: Cassell & Company Ltd. p. 400. 
  3. ^ a b Shand, P. Morton (1964). Ray, Cyril, ed. A Book of French Wines (3rd ed.). Bristol: Penguin Books. p. 139. 
  4. ^ a b c Penning-Rowsell, Edmund (1969). The Wines of Bordeaux. London: The International Wine and Food Publishing Company. pp. 361–369. ISBN 0-14-046866-8. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f Sutcliffe, Serena, (November 2, 2004). "Behind the Legend". Decanter.com.
  6. ^ a b c d Coates, Clive (1995). Grands Vins. University of California Press. pp. 448-453. ISBN 0-520-20220-1
  7. ^ a b c d Prial, Frank J. (September 26, 1990). "Wine Talk". The New York Times.
  8. ^ a b c Faith, Nicholas (April 16, 2003). "Jean-Pierre Moueix". The Independent.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Kissack, Chris. "Petrus". thewinedoctor.com. 
  10. ^ a b Lyons, William (April 29, 2003). "Obituary: Jean-Pierre Moueix". The Scotsman.
  11. ^ a b c d e f Pitcher, Steve (April/May 1998). "Château Petrus-A Legendary Vertical Tasting". The Wine News.
  12. ^ "Corking Petrus prices set to soar as experts announce it is the 'best vintage for 100 years'". Daily Mail.
  13. ^ Henry, Gordon M.; Sachs, Andrea; Zagorin, Adam (March 10, 1986). "Divine Wine". TIME.
  14. ^ Styles, Oliver (February 4, 2008). "Bordeaux en primeur is 'madness': Petrus winemaker". Decanter.com.
  15. ^ Anson, Jane. "Jean Claude Berrouet". newbordeaux.com.
  16. ^ Steinberger, Mike (May 4, 2005). "Defending Merlot". Slate.com. 
  17. ^ Gray, W. Blake, San Francisco Chronicle (February 24, 2005). Knocked Sideways
  18. ^ Episode guide at twiztv.com
  19. ^ http://www.nbc.com/Law_and_Order_Criminal_Intent/
  20. ^ Alexander McCall Smith, Espresso Tales, Chapter 68.

External links[edit]