Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Virginia's Mad Winetist

The great thing about emerging wine regions is that winemakers and vineyard managers are still learning, experimenting and figuring out what grapes grow best in what soil leading to the highest quality wines. Virginia is no different. In fact, as far as winemaking goes, the Wild West has been firmly transplanted to the Eastern seaboard.

True, Virginia is gaining a reputation built on the shoulders of Cabernet Franc, Viognier and increasingly Petit Verdot. Yet, the industry is still so young and growing that people are willing to try new things - be it blends, varietals or growing techniques.

Take Doug Fabbioli. He has made a name for himself based on his reds. His Cabernet Franc Reserve is a great showcase wine for Northern Virginia. He doesn't stop there, though. He committed to planting several rows of Carmenere to see how they did. It didn't work out, but the effort was made. Several acres and several years of patience were invested to reach that conclusion. Doug said he is now leaning to tearing out the Carmenere and replanting. Given the time it takes grapes to grow - usually three years, the land involved, and the labor costs involved, it is a proposition that other more established wine regions wouldn't consider. In Virginia, winemakers like Doug feel it is worth it because there is still the freedom to experiment.

Not all test plantings have had the same results as the Carmenere. Indeed, both Tannat and Sangiovese have taken to Virginia better than anyone could have expected.

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