RICHMOND—October is Virginia Wine Month, and wineries and vineyards across the state are open for business.
With more than 300 wineries, the popularity of Virginia wines continues to gain momentum. The state ranks sixth nationally in wine grape production, and Virginia wines are garnering more acclaim as wine tourism booms.
Annette Boyd, director of the Virginia Wine Board Marketing Office, said sales of Virginia wines are up 42% from January through August this year. More wineries also are expanding their distribution to other areas as interest grows outside of Virginia.
“One of the trends with wine consumers right now is a curiosity to explore new wines, new wine regions and an openness to explore the many options of wines available,” Boyd said. “This trend bodes well for Virginia wines.”
Stylistically, Virginia wines have a unique position in the wine world—midway between Old World wines from Italy, France and Spain and those from California, Oregon and Washington. The climate is similar to Europe’s, but Virginia wines typically have a more fruit-forward profile than European wines. They also pair better with food than wines from the West Coast, Boyd said.
Virginia wine grape growers need to be aware of the state’s varying climate and diverse landscape, intentionally modifying growing practices based on rain levels, temperature and other conditions, Boyd noted.
“Our winemakers continue to explore what grape varieties grow best here and experiment with winemaking techniques to produce interesting and unique wines,” she added.
Growers have found success with a diverse range of grapes, including cabernet franc, petit verdot, petit manseng, tannat and viognier. Traditional varieties also do well, such as cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, merlot and sauvignon blanc.
Grapes are the highest-value fruit crop in the U.S., and Virginia harvests over 8,500 tons of wine grapes, valued at $17.8 million.
“The vineyard industry has continued to grow since we got involved almost 20 years ago,” said Dr. Megan Seibel, who owns a vineyard in Virginia with her husband, Andy, and markets their grapes to Virginia wineries. “It has been a great way to diversify our farm in a way that maximizes topography and soil type.”