Chateau Petrus, one of the world's greatest estates
Petrus. Perhaps no other single word in the world of wine conjures up so much allure, mystique, reverence and luxury. A pure Merlot wine hailing from blue clay soils on the eastern side of the Pomerol appellation in the southwest of France, this unclassified gem consistently reaches higher prices than Bordeaux’s First Growths from across the river. Stemming from an ideal terroir, Petrus wine sluices fourth enfolding dark fruit and chocolate aromas on the nose. Velvety smooth tannins coat the palate and the texture lingers on for what seems like an eternity. Discover the legendary vintages of Petrus, crafted to age and evolve following many years in the bottle.
Despite never having been officially classified, Petrus (commonly called Chateau Petrus) is one of the single best-known estates in the Bordeaux wine region, in France. Petrus crafts some of the rarest and most sought-after wines in the world, whose most avid fans have included Queen Elizabeth II (who served it at her engagement party) and President Kennedy.
The rich history of Petrus
A late start but a high riser
The first written records of Chateau Petrus hark back to 1837, when many of the prestigious chateaux of the Medoc, on the Left Bank of the Bordeaux region, had already established their reputation. At this time, the estate constituted only 7 hectares (17 acres) and was owned by the Arnaud family. Despite not having been classified, the wines of Petrus already enjoyed a beaming reputation at the time, which earned them a gold medal at the Paris Exhibition of 1878.
The Arnaud family gradually sold the estate to Madame Edmond Loubat between 1925 and 1949. Soon after acquiring the estate, Madame Loubat designed a new label for its wine, one which depicts St. Peter holding the keys of Heaven. A few years later, she commissioned a statue of the saint, which is still at the estate today. Although Madame Loubat never doubted the potential of Petrus, it was in fact the passionate Jean-Pierre Moueix who elevated the reputation of the estate and placed it among the world's finest wine references.
France and beyond, a growing worldwide reputation
Originally from the Correze region, Jean-Pierre Moueix settled in Libourne, where he established his own wine merchant business. In 1945, he obtained the exclusive rights to sell Petrus wines. Instead of focusing on the domestic market, which still associated the concept of “grand vin rouge” (fine red wines) with the Medoc, Moueix decided to market the wines of Petrus abroad, in the United Kingdom and the United States. In the 1950s and 1960s, Petrus became one of the favorite wines of the Kennedy family, firmly establishing its reputation among American wine lovers. Petrus was also served at the Royal Wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip in 1947 and also was a guest of honor at the Queen’s coronation in 1953.
Madame Loubat remained a passionate vintner until her passing in 1961, after which Petrus was divided between her niece Lily-Paul Lacoste-Loubat and nephew M. Lignac. Moueix was also given a small share as a way to keep him involved in the estate’s future. In 1964, Jean-Pierre Moueix acquired M. Lignac’s shares. That same year, Petrus hired the talented winemaker Jean-Claude Berrouet, who - along with the viticulturist Michel Gillet – would produce 44 vintages and elevate the wines of Petrus to their modern-day glory.
In 1969, the Petrus estate expanded its surface area, by purchasing 5 hectares (12 acres) of vines from Chateau Gazin. Eventually, the Moueix family also purchased Mme Lacoste-Loubat’s shares, and thus, they became the sole owners of the estate.
Following the passing of Jean-Pierre Moueix in 2003, his oldest son Jean-François took over as the estate's manager, while his younger brother Christian Moueix became the Technical Director of Petrus.
At the end of the 2007 vintage, Jean-Claude Berrouet retired but remained a consultant for Petrus. With the 2008 vintage, Jean-Claude’s son Olivier Berrouet became the winemaker of the estate. During the "Moueix regime" at Petrus, several changes were made. Cabernet Franc, which during Madame Loubat's ownership of the estate made up around 20% of the vineyard, was reduced to only around 5%. This varietal was only included in the Grand Vin during fine winemaking years.
And after the 2010 harvest, the 0.5-hectare patch of Cabernet Franc vines was entirely uprooted. Since then Petrus wines have been made with exclusively Merlot grapes. This was a decision determined by the terroir, as the Moueix family believe that the cooler climate and clay soils of the estate are better suited to the Merlot varietal than any other grape. Already in the early 1970s, Christian Moueix pioneered the use of organic methods (i.e. crop thinning), well before these practices became more widespread. The estate has also modernized its wine cellar, with an optical sorter replacing manual sorting in 2009.
Petrus wines: the fruit of a fine terroir and boundless expertise
The king of Pomerol, Bordeaux
The 28-acre estate is located on the highest part of the prestigious Pomerol appellation on Bordeaux’s Right Bank. The vines of Chateau Petrus Pomerol are planted in soil rich with black clay, upon a subsoil composed of hard iron, also called crasse de fer. Petrus is the only vineyard in Pomerol entirely composed of blue clay soils, which date back 40 million years, while the rest of the appellation is characterized by thick gravel, dating back 1 million years. This ensures excellent drainage, as the rain is stored by the clay and replenishes the vines during the dry summer months. The blue clay layer also forces the roots of the vines to spread sideways, which is believed to give Petrus its signature smooth tannins. The soil formation is ideal for the Merlot varietal. In fact, Merlot accounts for nearly 96% of the estate's vines and is used to produce a Grand Vin made exclusively of Merlot, a rarity among the properties of Bordeaux. Since 2011, Chateau Petrus only comprises Merlot vines.
The grapes are harvested exclusively by hand and it is carried out after the morning dew has fully evaporated in order to avoid dilution. The teams make sure that all the vines are perfectly healthy. In the event of rainy vintages, Petrus uses plastic sheeting to shield the soil or even helicopters to fan dry the vineyard after a downpour. At the winery, stemmer-crushers are used to remove the stems before carrying out a gentle crushing. Fermentation is then carried out in concrete vats, with the maceration usually lasting between 15 to 21 days to encourage a slow and steady extraction of tannins. The wines are pumped over once per day, half in the morning, and the other half at night. After maceration, the wines are transferred to another vat for malolactic fermentation. The wines are then selected for the final blend. The blend is aged in oak barrels, of which only 50% are new and even these new barrels are soaked for 15 days in water to rid them of any overpowering flavors. The aging time varies and depends on the characteristics of each winemaking year. However, the aging period ranges between 18 to 20 months. The wine is then bottled without filtration.
The Inimitable Signature Style of Petrus
Merlot vines rooted in Bordeaux soil
When we think of the Merlot varietal and Bordeaux, we assume that it is blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, which is conventionally the case. This varietal enjoys a cool climate and thus, thrive in Saint Emilion and Pomerol, on the Right Bank of Bordeaux. Intense aromas of plum, blackberry, chocolate, juicy cherries and mushrooms (truffles) fill the nose. These medium-bodied wines reveal a bright ruby color in the glass, a color that evolves towards a garnet shade when aged.
What does Petrus taste like?
Petrus wines are expensive, but what is it that has true wine lovers spending thousands of dollars on a bottle of Petrus? It is one of the rarest wines of Pomerol, making it highly sought after. Unlike many other Grand Vin wines of Bordeaux, the distribution of Petrus is extremely limited. Rare vintages of Petrus are often sold at auction and bought by wine collectors. Petrus wines also boast an inimitable signature style, that is venerated by lovers of fine Bordeaux wine. The wines of Petrus are extraordinarily complex and offer an exotic feel. These characteristics set them apart from the classic red wines of the Bordeaux region and elevate them to a whole other level.
The nose exudes aromas of exotic fruit, dark fruit, blackcurrant, violet, truffles and chocolate. This wine fills the mouth with a velvety smooth texture, staying both long on the mind and the palate. Petrus' Pomerol wines are velvety, intensely concentrated and rich. Truly powerful, a bottle of Petrus wine from the best vintages can age for more than fifty years. An utter treasure for any wine collector or wine lover.
On the nose, a remarkably nuanced bouquet reveals notes of cassis, violet, cinnamon, plum, black cherry and truffle, along with Merlot's typical dark chocolate aromas. These rich, full-bodied red wines offer a velvety smooth texture on the palate, intense flavors and a baffling length.
A bottle of Petrus should always be aged in bottle for at least 15 years before tasting, and some bottlings can age gracefully in your cellar for more than fifty years. Some of the finest vintages produced by Petrus in recent years feature the 2000, 2009, 2010, 2015 and 2016 vintage.
Accolades from Robert Parker, James Suckling & Gordon Ramsay
One of the most iconic vintages for Petrus was the 1982, lauded by the world's most influential wine critic at the time, Robert Parker. Although Petrus red wines had already been renowned for their quality, Robert Parker's reviews lead to even greater international recognition and boosted the price of these wines significantly. James Suckling, another highly-admired wine critic, described Chateau Petrus as his favorite wine and has tasted most of the Petrus vintages. ''Moreish'' is the word that he used to describe these iconic red wines.
Pairing beautifully with food, one can enjoy fine Petrus wines in their youth or as a matured red wine. The famous British star-studded chef, Gordon Ramsay, named one of his Michelin-starred restaurants in London after this illustrious Pomerol estate. This London restaurant provides an exceptional fine dining experience, by pairing refined dishes with illustrious Petrus wines.
Interesting facts about Petrus
Where is Chateau Petrus?
Draped in mystery, Petrus is a rarity among the great chateaux of Bordeaux. First, “Château Pétrus” is somewhat of a misnomer, albeit a very popular one. While many other estates nearby, notably Chateau Cheval Blanc and Vieux Chateau Certan, feature magnificent chateaux that tower majestically over their vines, you will find no such "Château" at Petrus. The vineyard holds the most importance, rather than the building itself.
While many of the other fine Bordeaux wines are rated through classification systems that hark back to 1855 (for the reds of the Medoc and sweet whites of Sauternes and Barsac) and 1955 (a recurring classification for Saint-Emilion wines), the wines of Petrus are, surprisingly, not classified. This is because the estate is located in the appellation of Pomerol, which has always rejected the limiting restrictions of a quality-oriented classification system.
Are Petrus wines produced every year?
Unlike many other Bordeaux wineries, Petrus does not produce a second wine. Instead, they sell the unused fruit as bulk. Where this bulk ends up is a well-kept secret. As winemakers depend on the ever-changing weather conditions, sometimes none of the fruit is up to the teams' standards and thus, no Petrus wine is produced. An example of such a vintage is 1991, a challenging year that hit the Right Bank of Bordeaux with a bitter frost in April. Petrus wines are also one of the most commonly counterfeited wines in the world. Now you know, any bottle of Petrus 1991 will be fake.
Where can I buy Petrus wine?
These wines are often sold at auction for a very high price. At Millesima, the wines are sourced directly from the estate and we are truly honored to include many sought-after Petrus references in our portfolio. Double Magnum, Magnum and bottle formats, find the bottle size that will best suit your event or special occasion. Browse our selection of Petrus wines and treat yourself to one of these rare, highly-admired wines now.