Consistently ranking as one of the world’s most expensive wines in recent times, Pétrus is a Bordeaux wine estate located in the Pomerol appellation. Widely regarded as the outstanding wine of the region, Pétrus was virtually unheard of 30 years ago, making its rise to prominence all the more fascinating.
An understandably popular wine for investors, with the average 750ml bottle costing £2,500, here are five key things you should know about this exceedingly rich red.
- A long time coming
Despite Pétrus only having really made a name for itself in the last 30 years, it has in fact been around for a lot longer. The name first appeared in records from 1837, when the 17-acre vineyard was setup and owned by the Arnaud family at the end of the 18th century. Since then the ownership has changed hands a number of times, with the Moueix family often credited as the catalyst for its resounding success after the Second World War.
- Breaking America
Pétrus’ rise to prominence can be traced back to the 1960s when it became the talk of the New York wine scene having been promoted by Henri Soulé, owner of stand out New York restaurant Le Pavilion. When shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, famous for his wealth, started to visit Le Pavilion specifically to drink Pétrus, it 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.
- Trailblazing with green harvesting
Pétrus was one of the first estates in Bordeaux to implement green harvesting as a way to lower their crop yields and in-turn raise the quality of the remaining grapes. The grapes are harvested by hand over two to three days, although the relatively small size of the vineyard allows this process to be completed in just one day if deemed necessary.
- Patience and precision
The vines on the Pétrus estate are unusually old, and are only replanted after they reach 70 years of age. These grapes will only be harvested in the afternoon to ensure the morning dew has evaporated, so as not to risk the slightest dilution of quality. The grapes will then be fermented in cement vats before the wine is aged in 100% new oak barrels for 22-28 months. Pétrus is usually approachable after a decade or so in the bottle, but the very best vintages will continue to improve for many more years.
- All about the clay
The 11.4-hectare vineyard is located on a plateau on the highest part of Pomerol in the far east of the appellation. The topsoil and the subsoil at Pétrus is almost all clay (in neighbouring properties the soil is a mixture of gravel-sand or clay-sand) and Merlot flourishes in this soil. Pétrus' vineyard is planted with 95% Merlot.