Virginia: America’s Old World

It doesn't get the media coverage that California does, but Virginia is tipped to be the next big thing in American wine. Jason Tesauro picks out the varieties and producers that are bringing the area to wider attention, at home and abroad.

Virginia at a glance

The state has 230 wineries across nine regions and seven American Viticultural Areas (AVAs – see below). Central and northern regions represent nearly 80% of production. Piedmont is characterised by well-draining red clay; the north features low-vigour silt loam over crumbling granite; Shenandoah Valley is known for its limestone skeins; in the east and along the coast, sandy loam is common.

According to the Virginia Wine Board, Chardonnay is the most popular variety, followed by Cabernet Franc.

Central Virginia Region

  • Monticello AVA (38 wineries): The ‘classico’ of Virginia. Foothills along eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Northern Virginia Region

  • Middleburg Virginia AVA (24 wineries): 50 miles west of Washington, DC, with Potomac River to the north and mountains on the other three sides.

Shenandoah Valley Region

  • Shenandoah Valley AVA (22 wineries): the state’s largest AVA. Bounded by Blue Ridge to the east and Appalachian mountains to the west.

Chesapeake Bay Region

  • Northern Neck George Washington Birthplace AVA (11 wineries): Peninsula between Potomac and Rappahannock rivers on the Chesapeake Bay.

Eastern Virginia Region

  • Virginia’s Eastern Shore AVA (three wineries): Atlantic to the east, Chesapeake Bay to the west. Sea breezes and sandy soil.

Blue Ridge Highlands Region

  • North Fork of Roanoke AVA (two wineries): Summer heat tempered by cool, foggy mornings
  • Rocky Knob AVA (two wineries): Well-drained loam and gravel. Southern Virginia, Hampton Roads, Heart of Appalachia Three regions dotted with a dozen wineries; no AVAs.

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