October 8, 2019

Old World Grace and Southern Grit

A guest post by Kasia Tomecka White, DWS

You can learn a lot about our wine just by looking at a map. Virginia sits halfway between Europe and California. Our wines embody this unique position in the world. They are lush but structured; aromatic, expressive and beautifully balanced — blending the subtlety of the Old World with the boldness of the new. Like perfect French spoken with a slight southern draw.

I’ve never felt that a phrase (or group of phrases) is better suited to a particular area as I did the moment I heard the thoughts above regarding the Virginia wine industry.

With our region being relatively young in the world of wine, Virginia is still strongly motivated to establish itself. In doing so, the people of Virginia wine have immense pride in their work, and are determined to put in the extra time and energy to make truly phenomenal wines. And when I say this, I don’t mean phenomenal wines for Virginia; I mean phenomenal wines in the world of wine. They are beautifully balanced, dynamic and approachable. We celebrate international grape varieties that are well known like Chardonnay and Merlot, as well as some that have become more local identifiers like Cabernet Franc, Viognier, and Norton of course. We have winemakers that have traveled from France, Spain and throughout the world to be part of this bourgeoning wine region but we also have natives who grew up here and will forever be incorporated into the landscape.

When we think of Old World wine, we often celebrate how well flavors are integrated into the wine, how patient and restrained the winemakers tend to be, and how much work goes into the growing of the grapes, rather than manipulating the grapes and wine after harvest. California, as part of the New World, is often viewed as the exact opposite: over manipulated, over enhanced, overpowering. We in Virginia are perfectly in the middle: working hard in the vineyard to enhance the growing of these wonderful wine grapes, and for many producers, the winemaking is a bit more restrained or hands-off in order to best suit the regional identity we’re trying to establish.

What is perhaps the most impressive or significant piece of our continuing growth and development is the amount of communication and collaboration that exists here. Virginia is a region where the experienced prefer to share information to better the region as a whole. Those long-time growers or winemakers are always willing to communicate about what’s working, and what’s not in hopes that the Virginia identity becomes stronger. This sort of openness is invaluable and a great example of our modern determination and courage in this industry. We are not afraid to do research, ask questions, and find the best possible result for all involved. The world of Virginia wine is like a trellising system in the vineyard: interconnected support to allow for the best growing results.

No, we cannot grow every grape in Virginia well, nor can we produce the best wines in the world in years where we get over 190 days of rain. But we will keep our heads down, work harder than most, and produce the best we can from our amazing soil with the support of all of our fellow grape growers, winemakers, and wine lovers like you.

Kasia Tomecka White, DWS, has a 19-year background in food and wine. Her experience with Virginia wine started about eight years ago upon moving to Virginia. She holds a Diploma in Wine and Spirits from WSET and is a WSET Certified Educator who has been working with the Capital Wine School for the past five years.

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