Petit Manseng is an ancient white wine variety that retains exceptionally high titratable acidity even at high soluble solids (Brix). As a result, late-harvested grapes of this variety can make outstanding sweet wines. Harvested at lower Brix it can also make good dry wines, and its high acidity makes it well suited for warm-climate regions. This variety makes small clusters of very small to small grapes, and yields were moderate to low when pruned to two-bud spurs. Longer pruning should increase yield potential, and timely harvest, for dry wines, may also help achieve higher yields.
Origins and History
Petit Manseng is from the Jurancon, a south-west wine region of France found in the foothills of the Pyrenees. It is a principal variety in both the Jurancon and the Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh appellations. This variety is also grown in the Languedoc French appellation, Spain, Uruguay, and in California, Virginia, South Carolina, and Georgia of the United States. It is favored in the eastern United States because of its ability to retain acidity through the hot summers. DNA analysis strongly suggests that Savagnin is a parent of Petit Manseng, and Gros Manseng is an offspring.
Petit Manseng is vigorous with small clusters of small berries. As a result, yields for spur-pruned vines were considered moderate-to-low when trialed in the south-central San Joaquin Valley (Tables 1 and 2). However, the vines in that study were trained to quadrilateral cordons and pruned to two-bud spurs. According to Robinson et al. (2012), “long” pruning is advised, so leaving longer spurs, and thus retaining more nodes per vine, may increase yield potential. In the San Joaquin Valley, the clusters tended to whither soon after ripening, rapidly increasing soluble solids and decreasing bunch weight. The clusters are relatively loose and thus resistant to bunch rots.
The leaves of Petit Manseng can be entire, or 5-lobed with shallow lateral sinuses. Young leaves are yellow with bronze spots. The petiolar sinus can be slightly open and U-shaped, or with overlapping lobes. Clusters are a distinct green with hints of yellow on the outward facing side. The shoots are pale green and have a slight coppery tinge. The tips of young shoots have a high density of prostate hairs.
In France, Petit Manseng is early budding and mid to late ripening, but spur-pruned vines in Parlier, Fresno County, were ready to pick in early August most years.
Petit Manseng’s resistance to rot and its ability to accumulate sugar while maintaining acidity allows it to grow in hot and humid climates. The cultivar is moderately vigorous and cane pruning is recommended, though in the Parlier (Fresno County, California) trials the vines were spur pruned, which might have limited productivity (Table 1). Moreover, soluble solids increased rapidly after ripening, indicating desiccation, which probably contributed to lower yields. Therefore, prompt harvest is advised when being grown for dry table wine, especially in a warm or hot climate.
Petit Manseng has small clusters with small to very small berries. The berries retain extremely high acidity at high soluble solids (Brix), even when grown in a hot climate region. Because of its outstanding and persistent acidity, Petit Manseng is well suited for high-quality aromatic sweet wines made from late-harvest grapes. It is mainly grown in France (Jurancon, and Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh). There is also a very small amount grown in Spain (Pais Vasco) and Uruguay. In the United States, Petit Manseng’s high acidity makes it well suited to warm climate regions, and thus it has become a popular variety in Virginia where it is grown for dry and late-harvest wines. In Parlier, a town in the south-central San Joaquin Valley of California, a hot climate region, Petit Manseng grapes and wines retained outstanding acidity (Tables 1 and 2), though yields were considered moderate-to-low for the region. It could be useful for blending with other white wine varieties needing acid addition.
Catalogue of Grapevines Cultivated in France. Plantgrape. Available at: https://plantgrape.plantnet-project.org/en/recherche/petit%20manseng (Accessed 9th December 2022)
Schneider A. Mainardib G. Raimondi S. Viala P. Gallesio G. Illustrated historical universal ampelography: grape varieties from around the world Third ed. L’artistica editrice, 2012.
Petit Manseng: A Royal French heritage and a new life in the New World. Tablas Creek Vineyard Blog. (2017). Available at: https://tablascreek.typepad.com/tablas/2017/12/petit-manseng-a-royal-heritage-and-a-new-life-in-california.html (Accessed: 9th December 2022)
Robinson, J., J. Harding, J. Vouillamoz. 2012. Wine Grapes. HarperCollins, New York