Virginia is for wine-lovers
Author: Catriona Felstead MW
Virginia isn’t the first name that springs to mind when thinking of North American wine. California is the dominant force in the USA wine scene, followed at a fairly significant distance by Oregon and Washington. If you are lucky, you may have heard of the Finger Lakes – but Virginia?
Surprisingly, however, Virginia has a long history associated with wine, with wine being made there for over four centuries. Indeed, the third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, was its most famous ambassador, having grown grapes in the region for over 30 years. Due to problems with phylloxera however, he, like many others, never actually managed to make a good bottle of wine.
Things changed in the 19th century, when a Virginia wine was named “best red wine of all nations” at the Vienna World Exhibition in 1873 and since then, Virginia wine country has developed and improved beyond recognition, albeit at a rather slow pace. In the last decade, things have picked up speed with the number of wineries in the state doubling from 107 in 2005 to over 200 today. Virginia is now a fascinating place for an off-the-beaten-track wine adventure, especially in the spring when this beautiful state is at its most enticing.
I have been looking at and tasting Virginia wines over the last year and my conclusion is that the quality coming out of this region can be variable, but when it is good, it is extremely good. On the white wine front, Viognier is the key grape variety to look out for. The 2014 Breaux Vineyards Viognier, which features in our mixed case, is seriously impressive with wonderful texture and typicity; this could easily be mistaken for a Northern Rhône white.
With regards to the reds, the Bordeaux varieties are key, either as blends or as single-varietal wines. The other wine we feature from Breaux Vineyards, Equation, is a blend of 85 percent Merlot and 15 percent Chambourcin, which adds a spicy, slightly herbal note to the plummy Merlot. The final wine in our case is a single-varietal Petit Verdot from Veritas Vineyards. It is a complete rarity to find this grape on its own as Petit Verdot is more commonly used to add punch, tannins and spice to Bordeaux blends, generally only needing quite small doses to have an effect. Virginia seems to have tamed this feisty grape however and, although the wine has undeniable structure, it is really very enjoyable to drink – one for a slow-cooked rib of beef.
While delicious to drink, these wines are significant in representing not only the Old World restraint to be found state-side, but also of exciting things to come in the region.
To find out more about how you can win a trip to Virginia’s wine country, please click here. This prize has been kindly provided by Ulysses Communications & Promotions; all tasting notes relating to the wines featured have been written by our buyer Catriona Felstead MW.