Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Virginia Wine and Lots of Fun: The 30th Annual Vintage Virginia Wine Festival in Centreville
One of the most popular wine festivals on the US East Coast - the annual Vintage Virginia Wine Festival -took place on June 4 and 5 at Bull Run Regional Park in Centreville, just half an hour away from Washington DC:
The Wines of Virginia
Virginia is the 5th largest wine industry in the US, with nearly 200 wineries and 2,500 acres of vineyards. Over the past 50 years, Virginia wines have experienced a tremendous development - to elegant and balanced, mostly European vinifera-based wines.
As far as white wines are concerned, the European vinifera grapes Chardonnay and Viognier are the leading varieties today. Increasingly they are made “naked” or with little oak only, with the objective of retaining natural acidity and freshness.
Picture: Wine Producer Virginia
For French-American hybrid varieties, Seyval Blanc is still popular, but resembles now the fresh and crisp wines from France’s South West. Vidal has become the backbone of the artificially frozen ice wine (cryoextraction), which I am not a great fan of.
The first ice wine was reportedly produced in Germany in 1794. Today, ice wines are highly prized wines that are made not only in Germany, but also in Austria and Canada as well as other countries, including the United States. Canada has experienced an amazing ice wine boom in the past decades. See about German and Canadian ice wine here. In the context of ice wine, some wine regions, including Virginia, are pushing cryoextraction. This is an approach, which kind of simulates the frost in the vineyard in the wine cellar. It was developed by the French. Instead of waiting for mother nature to produce frosty temperatures in the vineyard, the winemaker subjects the grapes to frosty temperatures in the cellar and presses them while frozen.
As far as red wines are concerned, there was a shift in top Virginia reds from straight varietal wines to blends. And blends have gone from being dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon to Merlot and Cabernet Franc, with a significant amount of Petit Verdot. The latter grape may well be Virginia’s future signature style in this category. There is an increasing focus on neutral oak and clean, vibrant fruit, mirroring the evolution of Virginia white wines.
Tannat, Uruguay’ signature grape from the South West of France, is showing up in more Virginia wines, usually as a blend. The only red French American hybrid which has performed consistently well in Virginia is Chambourcin, which, with its bright cherry aromas and flavors, crisp acidity and low tannin, resembles the Gamay grape of Beaujolais.
Finally, Claude Thibault, a native from France, has now been producing premium sparkling wines in Virginia. While respectable sparkling wines have been made in Virginia in the past, sparkling wines have been taken to a new level in Virginia by Claude Thibault. His NV Thibault-Janisson Brut, made from 100 percent Chardonnay, which President Obama offered his guests at his first state dinner is as close as you can get to Champagne outside of France.
About a quarter of the Virginia wineries participated:
The 30th Annual Vintage Virginia Wine Festival
This was a great wine event, offering as many as 20.000 visitors a one-stop tasting opportunity of more than 300 different wines. When I went, on Saturday, it got sometimes a bit crowded and did not really allow you to engage in a conversation with the winemaker or a winery representative; it was just too busy. In addition to offering free tastes, all wineries also offered their wines by the glass and by the bottle and at special discounts if you bought several bottles:
For those, who wanted a quieter and more educational atmosphere, there was a "Top 5 Tasting Tent"; the tent featured special presentations and tastings from selected wineries every 20 minutes:
In addition to the wine, there were many foot stands:
I in particular liked the Pepper Creek both from Mathews in Virginia, which offered clams and oysters:
A range of fine artisans and crafters were on site:
You could hear the music from the main stage everywhere. Seven different groups were performing on the main stage over the course of the weekend. Indeed many people appeared to have come because of the music. There is a large lawn area, which was on Saturday quickly covered by groups of people who had come well prepared, with lawn chairs, banquets, camping tables and food:
Plenty of activities for the children were also available:
As usual in the US, these wine festivals start early (11:00 am) and end early (6:00 pm). In that respect, I am looking forward to the wine festivals in Germany, which end around midnight. But apart from this, the 30th Annual Vintage Virginia Wine Festival in Centreville provided me with a superb opportunity to review what is happening in the Virginia wine industry.
Tickets ranged in price from $27-$45 for a regular single-day pass and VIP tickets for $125.
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