A tasting of Virginia wines in Kent

Last week I was invited to give a presentation on Virginian wines to Hextable Wine Society in north Kent.

Apparently none of the members had ever tried one before and it was a surprise to a few that there was any wine produced in the state at all.

So, I really enjoyed opening people minds to the delights of Virginian wine – I love introducing people to new things, it really is the best part of what I do.

It also gave me the chance to reacquaint myself with some of the wines that I had tried on my recent trip to Virginia.

I managed to get hold of a good range – using the good offices of Chris Parker, whose New Horizon Wines is really leading the Virginian assault on the UK.


Chris Parker in a Virginian Vineyard

The line gave a good snap shot of Virginia, and what is more all the wines are available in the UK. Of course some of the wines really shone, but all of them were good and the reds came in for some special praise as their tannin management met with great approval from this discerning audience:

Map of Virginia showing where the wineries are - click for a larger view


2008 White Hall Vineyards Viognier
Monticello AVA

This was widely liked with 80% Viognier, 10% Petit Manseng, 7% Muscat and 3% Gewurztraminer in the blend giving it that touch of the exotic and a real freshness in the mouth – 89/100 points.

2008 Breaux Vineyards Viognier

A tad sweeter, but still dry, and more serious too – this is an unoaked example, but the richness of the variety and that delicate spice is balanced superbly by quite high acidity for a Viognier.

By a whisker this was the preferred style of Viognier – 90/100 points.

2008 The Williamsburg Winery Acte 12 of 1619 Chardonnay

Act 12 of The Virginia House of Burgesses, which was the first representative assembly in the New World, was a law requiring all colonists to plant at at least 10 vines. It was an attempt to make vines important to the new economy, sadly it failed despite French viticultural experts being brought in. Not enough was known about growing vitis vinifera in North America in those days and it is possible that this was vitis viniferas the first tangle with phyloxerra.

The delicate use of French oak was approved of here, together with the very lean French style – nothing gloopy here – 87/100 points.

2008 Veramar Vineyard Cabernet Franc

This cool vintage produced a medium-bodied, fresh, very cherry infused style of Cabernet Franc that was well received – 88/100 points.

I have also tasted the 2008 which was a hotter vintage and the extra ripeness really showed.

2007 Barboursville Vineyards Reserve Cabernet Franc

Barboursville make good wines, they have been growing vitis vinifera grapes in Virginia longer than anyone else and their winemaker has been there for 20 odd years – the experience and consistency shows.

This is a terrific example of the grape, ripe fruit, good use of oak and supple, seamless tannins make this a lovely dry red wine of real quality – 91/100 points.

2008 Veritas Paul Shaffer 2nd Edition Petit Verdot
Monticello AVA

English owned Veritas was one of my favourite visits while in Virginia, I think their passion really showed in every wine they produced and this was a gem.

Even in this cooler year, or did that help this late ripening grape?, the fruit was beautifully ripe with lovely depth, judicious use of oak to underscore the wine and not dominate, together with very fine tannins. This wine is a joy – 92/100 points.

2007 Boxwood Topiary, The Boxwood Winery

This was the most obviously new world wine of the tasting, which mirrors the amazing winery that is clearly modeled on the Napa Valley. The estate used to be home to General Billy Mitchell and is today run by Rachel Martin whose father used to own the Washington Redskins.

This 50/50 blend of Cabernet Franc is intended to be in a Libournnais style, but I think it is a bigger wine than that implies. This hot vintage has delivered intense fruit with the oak giving some lovely spice notes. This is very good, but needs time – 91/100 points.

2005 Breaux Vineyards Nebbiolo

This was a fine, mature and savoury take on Piemonte’s grape, like Petit Verdot it is a real mystery as to why this grape does so well in Virginia. Nebbiolo is a very late ripening grape that was pretty tricky to get right in Italy until well into the twentieth century. That being said I have only encountered it on 2 sites in Virginia, so perhaps it enjoys localised conditions.

Pale, transparent and slightly brickyard red.
Lovely rose petal nose with spice and tea.
Creamy smoothness to the palate soft with delicate spice and rounded red fruit studded with spice and dried redcurrants too.
Lovely wine medium bodied, but very tasty indeed. Great balance with finesse and delicacy – 90/100 points.

Many of these wines are available in the UK from the Oxford Wine Company, Hercules Wine Warehouses in Kent and The Good Wine Shops in south west London as well as Wholefoods in South Kensington.

For details about Hextable Wine Society please contact the chairman,  John Mesnard on 01322 862340 or email: john@mesnard.co.uk

It was a terrific evening and really rewarding to introduce lots of new people to these excellent wines – bear them in mind, their quality far outstrips their novelty value.

9 thoughts on “A tasting of Virginia wines in Kent

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  3. Great post! We’re tremendous fans of VA wine (obviously, since we’ve been to over 100 wineries) and it’s exciting to see how our state’s wines are being received on your side of the Atlantic. Looking forward to reading more!

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