Rare Grapes of Virginia

(Updated 12/17/2020)

I’m fascinated with terroir. Why do some grapes grow better than others? What is the magical concoction of soil, altitude, water and temperature that makes grape vines produce not just good wines, but GREAT ones. It’s a challenge even the best wine makers face.

This question led me to start examining what grapes are planted in Virginia. I mean sure, you see Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc everywhere. But what about the hundreds – if not thousands – of other grapes we find around the world? How do we find them?

So I’ve embarked on what seems a never ending question to produce a roster of grapes that you don’t exactly see every day in Virginia. Vinifera like Pinotage, Tempranillo, Petit Syrah, Vermentino, or hybrids like Arandell.

BIG caveat – this list is only as good as the information that I can find; I don’t pretend it is a definitive list of the state. It also does not include tiny experimental plantings, focuses on vineyards owned by wineries (instead of private or leased vineyards), and is disproportionately skewed towards older vines that are being harvested.

This list excludes nearly all the grapes found on the Virginia Commercial Grape Report, except a handful of the lower-density ones.

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