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‘Time is right for Virginian wine to succeed in UK’

The time is right for the wines of Virginia to make a serious impact on the UK market, the general manager of one of the US region’s leading estates has said.

Veritas Vineyard and Winery in Virginia hopes to make an impact in the UK market with its single-varietal Petit Verdot (Photo: New Horizon Wines)

Speaking at a Wines of Virginia dinner in London, George Hodson, of Veritas Vineyard and Winery in Nelson County said that, although Virginia wine was still a “novel concept” in the UK, efforts to create a perception of quality among UK consumers were beginning to reap rewards for the region’s wineries.

“Right now is a good time because we’re bringing together the work that we’ve done to increase awareness of Virginia wine in the UK, with products coming in behind it,” Hodson said.

“That’s what we’re trying to work towards: increase awareness of what Virginia wines is, create a perception of quality with the English consumers… By distributing here we’ve been in front of the likes of Steven Spurrier, we’ve been in front of Oz Clark and Jancis Robinson – it’s the most competitive wine market in the world and it’s the world’s predominant wine critics…

“Virginia wine is such a novel concept in the UK. There’s a lot of perception about California, there’s a lot of perception about American wine, but the reality is that Virginian wine is far more European in style and quality than it is anything towards California. That’s a function of our terroir, that’s a function of our weather, it’s a function of our history too – if you think Virginia is where the first English settlers set up in Jamestown…

Hodson added that Virginia’s “Old World” style of wines, combined with its regulatory freedoms when compared with established European winemaking countries, gave the state a distinctive edge and the opportunity to pioneer wines not permitted in appellation-controlled regions. One example, he said, was single-varietal Petit Verdot.

“The reason Virginia wine becomes distinctive is because it is technically a New World location but it’s an Old World style. We do all French varietals, but what we’re doing is something that lands between old Europe – Bordeaux – and California.

“[Virginia has] got a lot of the freedom of not having a long history of a specific kind of winemaking or a specific varietal so the winemakers can evolve what works in the region.

“Petit Verdot is one of the great examples of what we’re doing in Virginia,” he went on. “Petit Verdot has been grown in Bordeaux for ever but there’s not a lot of single-varietal, and there’s always been a reason for that – because of the way the grape grows in [that] region, the wines they make from those grapes are not nice, whereas when you get to the expression of Virginia in that grape it becomes a very elegant wine. It’s not overly tannic, it’s got some of that elegance to it that allows it to be a unique expression of the place.

Located in Nelson County, Veritas is owned by Hodson’s English parents, Andrew and Patricia. The Hodsons planted their first vines in 1999. The property now extends to around 60 acres.

Currently making around 20,000 cases a year, with plans to increase the level of production, Veritas has been exporting to the UK since 2009.

“We are now about 60 acres on our property and we lease about another 30 acres that we manage ourselves,” Hodson explained.

“We are increasing in our production and we are vey proud to be in the UK wine market, not only because of it being such a prestigious wine market, but also because my parents and I have British passports – so dual citizenship.”

The state of Virginia is home to 275 wineries and is the fifth-largest wine-producing state in the US. The wine industry contributes $750 million a year to Virginia’s economy.

In 2015, Virginia wine sales reached a record high of more than 524,000 cases, or 6.3 million bottles.

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