What makes a great wine region? Or, perhaps more to the point, how does a relatively new region become known for great wines?
For Luca Paschina, winemaker and general manager of Barboursville Vineyards, north of Charlottesville, the criteria for world recognition are quality and consistency.
“If Virginia is to be recognized as a top wine-growing region,” Paschina argues, “we need not only to make a world-class wine but to make it consistently over several vintages.”
Paschina is now at the point where he feels confident he is making such a statement with Octagon, Barboursville’s flagship wine. Octagon is a Bordeaux-styled blend, predominantly Merlot, with small lots of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot blended in. Paschina first made an Octagon in 1991, then again in 1995, but it was 1998—a “breakthrough” vintage for Virginia—when he first made enough for commercial distribution.
Last month, I attended a luncheon at the winery where Paschina presented his 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, and 2002 Octagons with a five-course meal prepared by Melissa Close, chef of Palladio, the winery’s top-notch Italian restaurant. (Barboursville is owned by the Zonin wine family of northern Italy, and Paschina hails from Piemonte, land of white truffles and Nebbiolo wines.)
The wines were all vibrant and young, and though they showed subtle differences—the ’98 had a touch of cinnamon stick, the ’99’s oak was perhaps a little prominent—they demonstrated consistent quality. I may be jaded by my habit of drinking younger wines, but I sensed improvement in the later vintages, with the wines being more supple and elegant.
Paschina just finished his fourth consecutive high-quality harvest and is excited about the Octagons to come. He did not make an Octagon in 2003, an extremely wet growing season capped by Tropical Storm Isabel in September. The 2004, which he did not feature at the luncheon, is beautifully structured, very Bordeaux in style and destined for a long life.
“You will be drinking a lot of exciting Virginia wines over the next two to four years,” Paschina predicted of the 2004 through 2007 vintages.
Much to look forward to!
Barboursville Octagon 2004 , $39.99 at Barboursville Vineyards, 17655 Winery Rd., Barboursville, VA; 540-832-3824; barboursvillewine.net.