Pétrus, a dream for everyone, a reality for only a few

There aren’t many people who can afford to buy and enjoy Pétrus, a legendary and mythical French wine. Will you be one of the lucky ones?

We know Bordeaux as the most important wine region in the world, a French region located in the southwest of the country that includes areas like Médoc, Graves, Saint Èmilion and Pomerol, which have created some of the world’s most sought-after wines. But there is one name that stands out from the crowd having created a wine that has become legendary, and most importantly, now considered the best in the world. Who hasn’t heard the name Pétrus?

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Petrus in Latin means “solid as a rock”, which describes the winery, but also refers to St. Peter, who welcomes you to the estate with a stone statue, carrying the key to heaven in his hand. Surely a trip to this winery would be like experiencing a taste of heaven.

The property dates to the end of the 18th century when it belonged to the Arnaud family. The wine that was made there was already going places. In 1878, during the Universal Exhibition in Paris, Pétrus won a gold medal and that was when it began to compete with Bordeaux wines made in Médoc and already considered to be of the highest quality.

The Arnaud family gradually sold the property to a Libourne hotelier and then widow, Marie-Louise Loubat acquired it in 1945. Mrs. Loubat knew that her wine had great potential and she, with an innate business ability, decided to travel the world to promote it and have Pétrus compete with Bordeaux wines both in quality and price.

Her enthusiasm and drive was such that she managed to get invited to Queen Elizabeth II’s wedding breakfast (who was a princess at the time) where her wine was served to the guests. And that’s when the legendary status of Pétrus spread around the world.
Marie-Louise Loubat died in 1961, and in 1962 her niece Lily Lacoste inherited the winery. In 1964, she sold some shares in the estate to Jean-Pierre Moueix who became a co-owner and the main driver of Pétrus, consolidating the legendary status that it has today.

Another person behind its success is Jean-Claude Berrouet, a young winemaker who arrived at Pétrus in 1964 without any experience and stayed there working elegantly and discreetly for 40 years, without stridency or presumption, and he is also considered an important part of the Pétrus story. He thinks he is just an orchestra conductor who knew how to work sensitively to understand that these peculiar plots could produce a high quality wine. Today, his son Olivier Berrouet is the winemaker there.

What makes Pétrus so special?

To begin with, the 11.5 hectares of vineyards where Pétrus comes from lie on a high terrace in Pomerol with a peculiar iron-rich clay soil known as crasse de fer. Only some of the land has of gravel soils. Apparently this has been ideal for the cultivation of Merlot, which is what this great wine is made with.

Years ago Pétrus’ vineyards were 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc, another of the traditional Bordeaux varieties used in coupages. This percentage has been reduced over time and, since 2010, all vineyards are planted with Merlot, which is the variety used to make Pétrus.

Obviously the wine is made with the utmost care to enhance its quality. The winery was one of the pioneers in using green pruning to reduce strain yield to obtain fewer clusters but with greater concentration and quality.

Pétrus is a classic winery that works with the philosophy of minimal intervention. For Jean-Claude Berrouet, the legendary winemaker, allowing the wine to express the climatic variations of the terroir where the grapes were grown is what marks its character and makes every vintage different. It is important that the wine describes the place it comes from, its history, because “Wines are better when they tell a story,” Berrouet points out.

At Pétrus, they strictly pre-select each of the vats containing young wines before preparing the final coupage. There are plots and wines that are rejected for not conforming to the quality standards that are required to make this Great Wine.

What does a Pétrus taste like?

Merlot from Pomerol creates sensual, sweet and modern wines, according to the winemaker. And those privileged enough to have tried it say that it is an intense wine, with a penetrating aroma, character and great elegance.

A balanced and flavoursome wine that is difficult to describe due to the complexity of aromas and nuances that it expresses. The best vintages can even reveal a strength comparable to a good port wine. They say that this wine captivates everyone who knows how to appreciate it.

The most accessible vintage can cost around 3,000 euros. However, this amount is far removed from the price when the wine leaves the winery, which can reach five times higher as soon as the bottles are released.

The universally recognised great Pétrus vintages are those from the years 1929, 1945, 1947, 1961, 1964, 1982, 1989, 1990, 2000, 2005, 2009 and 2010.

Interesting facts about Pétrus

Pétrus is undoubtedly legendary and a highly sought-after product that has numerous interesting facts and anecdotes surrounding it. Would you like to hear some?

It once rained during the harvest. The winery hired a helicopter to fly over the vines to dry them with the air it generated. And it worked!

Not only was this wine served at Queen Elizabeth II’s wedding, former US President John F. Kennedy used to open a bottle of Pétrus to celebrate his successes.

Some insist on calling it Château Pétrus, but there is no Château on the estate, unlike with other great Bordeaux wines. The word Château has never appeared on the Pétrus label.

Do not be fooled! In 1965 and 1991 the crops were not suitable for making quality wine, so these vintages do not existNor does the 1956 because that year, the vineyard suffered a harsh frost, so there was no Pétrus made.

There is a story about the winery’s previous owner, Lily Lacoste, that is more fiction than reality, a bit like “Falcon Crest”, with talk of conspiracy and the disappearance of Pétrus bottles that belonged to Mrs. Lacoste, the whereabouts of which are unknown.

Obviously, this aura of mystery and legend has made this Grand Vin a protagonist or character in some films and literature.

For example, the book “The mysterious bottle of Pétrus”, by Noel Balen and Jean-Pierre Alaux, deals with a series of murder mysteries related to the wine.

In “El collar y el Pétrus del 81” (The Necklace and the Petrus of ‘81), sommelier and writer Damián Vila writes about a series of events involving a renowned winemaker.

In terms of films, there is a famous scene from the movie “Sideways” where the protagonist, Miles Raymond, who hates Merlot wine, is in possession of a prized 1961 Château Cheval Blanc, a Bordeaux wine made with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. At first they wanted Miles’ precious bottle to be a Pétrus, which is a single-variety Merlot, but apparently the company did not give its permission.

However, there are those who made “the best and most expensive sangria in the world” with a Pétrus, like the characters in the French film “Barbecue”.

Continuing down the literature and cinema line, Hannibal Lecter, a well-known character from the movie “Silence of the Lambs” based on the books by Thomas Harris pairs Pétrus with the “sweetbreads” of a flute player from the Baltimore Philharmonic in a passage of the novel.

Fact or fiction, Pétrus is a wine that arouses curiosity and desire. We will leave you with a short video by James Suckling. Do you want to try it?

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