Virginia’s official grape variety is Viognier. At this month’s Virginia Wine Summit, kicking off Virginia Wine Month, a panel session on the official grape talked and tasted through the reasons why. But in this burgeoning wine industry, the official red variety is still to be determined.

At the panel on this very topic, we hard from four leading wineries in the state about their thoughts and tasted it in the glass. As Luca Paschina, General Manager and Winemaker for Barbousville Vineyards, said to kick off the discussion, “What is the grape of Bordeaux? I don’t think they said this many years ago. It just happened.”

Here’s each case on what Virginia’s red variety should be.

Barboursville Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2010

  • This wine is full of berries, plum and cedar.
  • They planted this variety in their vineyards back at it’s start in the 1970’s.
  • It does well from wet to dry conditions.
  • It’s an easy grape to grow. You can have confidence when you put it in the ground.
  • When a not so great vintage, the wine is still good. When it’s a good vintage, it’s incredible.
  • It ages well.
  • It’s a great food wine.
  • Luca also feels Merlot, always the key component in their award-winning Octagon wine, is even more bullet proof.

Veritas Vineyards Petit Verdot 2010

  • This wine is big violet and dark berries with vanilla hints. 2010 was a hot, dry vintage so more berry and violet forward.
  • This is Emily Pelton, winemaker at Veritas, favorite grape.
  • It’s a very unique grape that not many other regions can grow.
  • It produces a very interesting wine with weight and heaviness.
  • Gives you variety from year to year which is fun for a winemaker.

RdV Lost Mountain 2009

  • This wine is 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and a touch of Petit Verdot.
  • The blend is a very nice carmelly, cherry, blueberry.
  • Rutger de Vink, RdV General Manager, said their planting is all about soil type matched with the right grape. They are focusing on blends so year to year they can use the best mix to make the best wine.

Chrysalis Vineyards Norton 2011 Barrel Selection

  • As Jennifer McCloud, Chrysalis Vineyards owner, said, “this is a wild wine with a unique character.”
  • Norton is the only native grape of the United States so you don’t have any issues growing it at all.
  • Can be challenging in the cellar.
  • Norton is a major grape variety in their portfolio.

As you can see, it’s not a unanimous decision on red. What everyone did agree on is Virginia’s blends are a stand out in the state, similar to Bordeaux. Look at Virginia’s 2012 Governor’s Cup… five out of the twelve wines were red blends.

Check the reds out for yourself this Virginia Wine Month!