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The Grapes that Do Well in Virginia

The first session of the conference asked the question, what grapes work best in Virginia? The session moderated by Richard Leahy of Vineyard & Winery Management magazine included panelists Matthew Meyert from Williamsburg Winery, Jennifer McCloud from Chrysalis Vineyards and Matthieu Finot from King Family Vineyards. The panelists represent three of Virginia’s nine wine regions: Hampton Roads, Northern Virginia and Central Virginia.

What grapes work best in Virginia? Jennifer mentioned that, “We should be growing grapes that we want to grow in our region.” Matthew suggested that all research funds for the wine industry should be placed in the vineyard. He believes that it is critical to know what grows well in the different Virginia regions. The first discussion centered on the hybrids and natives that the panelists use at their wineries. Several grape varieties were mentioned including Vidal Blanc, Seyval Blanc, Traminette and Norton. Matthieu explained that he is from France and doesn’t grow hybrids or native grapes at King Family Vineyards. Of the vinifera grapes, several were mentioned that do well in Virginia. These include: Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. All panelists were excited about the potential of Merlot in Virginia.

Other varieties of grapes that do well in Virginia include Petit Verdot, Malbec, Tannat, Viognier, Petit Manseng and Albarino. These grapes are well suited for the Virginia regions.

What grapes should probably not be grown in Virginia? Matthew thinks that Cabernet Sauvignon grown in Virginia can’t compete with the Cabs from other areas and questions if it should be grown in Virginia. Jennifer and Matthieu agreed with Matthew’s assessment of Cabernet Sauvignon. The panelists also question whether growers should grow Sauvignon Blanc and consider Pinot Gris boring.

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