October is Virginia Wine Month and a great time to get out and discover your favorites.
Virginia is the nation’s fifth largest wine grape producer and our wines are now consistently recognized around the globe. Not all wine grapes grow well here, but some truly thrive. Chardonnay is the state’s most planted grape, creating rich and full-bodied wines, that are a testament to the grape’s versatility. There are over two-dozen other Virginia varieties, including well-known favorites like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc. There are, however, some wonderful surprises, too.
Red Bordeaux varieties, particularly Cabernet Franc, Nebbiolo, Petit Verdot and Tannat, grow well in Virginia’s warm climate and have become extremely popular throughout the state.
Our Cabernet Franc has earned an international reputation and is considered to be among Virginia’s best red wines. It is a spicy, peppery wine with aromas that can contain plum, blackberry, violets and tobacco notes. Well-spiced meat dishes or an aged cheese plate make perfect pairings for this flavorful red.
Nebbiolo is one of Virginia’s best kept secrets. It is grown very selectively throughout the Commonwealth, and requires a long growing season. Nebbiolo has a distinctive brick-orange color and pairs especially well with earthy flavors. A perfect match for truffles, it is also wonderful with braised short ribs, rack of lamb, or mushroom risotto.
Generally used as a blending grape in Bordeaux, Petit Verdot has come into its own as a Virginia varietal. It creates a dark, full-bodied red wine characterized by dense, dark fruit with spicy notes of leather, coconut, smoke and dark chocolate. Pair with steak, rich sauces, barbecue and strong cheeses to showcase both wine and food to their maximum potential.
Another French grape, Tannat, is becoming a rising star in Virginia. Along with earthy flavors and spice, Tannat’s full-bodied palate showcases fruit flavors including plum and raspberry. Usually produced as a single varietal wine in Virginia, its smoky character makes it a perfect pairing for sausage, roasted meats and strong aged cheeses.
Emerging Virginia whites of interest include Albariño, Viognier and another French white variety called Petit Manseng.
Albariño is highly aromatic and showcases intense lime, apple, hyacinth, almond and grass notes that are balanced by a naturally high acidity. This lively wine is made in a dry style without oak and is best served young. It is wonderful with fresh fish and seafood of all kinds as well as other light meats, and is a lovely accompaniment to goat cheese.
Viognier has become somewhat of a signature white wine for Virginia. Internationally, Virginia Viognier has consistently earned praise for its intense and complex aromas of stone fruit with tropical notes. It is a superb accompaniment to rich dishes such as lobster, veal, pork and cheeses, and particularly shines when paired with a rich sauce.
Petit Manseng is a white wine variation of the black Manseng grape, whose name derives from its small berries. It features rich aromas of candied fruit and spice which are often complemented with flavors of honey, nuts and pineapple. Quickly gaining critical acclaim in Virginia, Petit Manseng goes well with a variety of foods including moderately spicy Asian and Thai dishes.
To see how your favorites stack up against the experts, check out the medalist winners from the 2017 Virginia Governor’s Cup wine competition at www.virginiawine.org/governors-cup
Drink Local October Challenge
Be true to your roots, Virginia! In celebration of Wine Month, please choose a Virginia vintage when enjoying wine during the month of October. Whether at home or in a restaurant, be sure to support our local wineries. Tell us about your Virginia Wine crush at #VAWine and #OctVAWineMonth.
Always drink responsibly.