In addition to hosting over 70 wineries, last weekend's annual Virginia Wine Expo also offered seminars to blow your wine-intrigued mind. Wine expert Bartholomew Broadbent paired 16 wines (whoa, right?) — eight South African and eight Virginian — to show how similar, and how very different, the two wine-producing regions can be. Because knowledge is power, here are a few of the lessons we learned:
- South Africa is known for its Pinotage, a cross between Cinsault and Pinot Noir. Pinotage was bred in South Africa in 1925, but it's also grown in Virginia, most notably by Grayhaven Winery, Lovingston Winery and Horton Vineyards.
- South Africa has some of the oldest vines in the Southern Hemisphere. Old vines assist with intensity and depth of flavor in wine, however only 18 percent of the Cape is old vine. Here in the Old Dominion, Virginia’s vines can definitely compete in age.
- Wine flavors have homogenized since the 1980s. Broadbent mentioned an anecdote that claims yeast is the sperm for grapes. Since roughly the 1970s and '80s, most wineries have started using cultivated yeasts. It is talked about in many wine communities that it's possible only natural wines, like Musar, still have true terroir.
- It takes around $30 (at most) to make a bottle of wine. Supply and demand, market positioning and market costs are your price changers after this first $30.
- A lot of wineries (like Vilafonté and its Series M wine) hold themselves to very serious standards. If the wine they produce does not fit their benchmark, they declassify and sell the wine as something entirely different.
- Barboursville Vineyards' Luca Paschina was awarded the "Order of Merit of the Italian Republic," one of Italy’s highest civilian awards. In the wine world, winning this induction is the equivalent of being knighted.
- It’s said that the human body has become naturally aligned to process an alcohol by volume of 12.5 percent; higher ABV wines are not processed as easily. For example, a 15.5-percent bottle is equivalent to one 12.5-percent bottle plus three vodka tonics.
- Believe it or not, rosé outsells white wine in France. Currently, a lighter-colored rosé is more in vogue than its darker-hued contemporaries.
All this learning is making us thirsty. Good thing we're surrounded by quality wine.