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Zonin takes 'Jefferson's Dream' Virginian Italian varieties on tour

Published:  29 April, 2016

Italian winemaking group Zonin Family Estates has taken a novel approach to promoting its Barboursville Vineyards wines from Virginia with a country-hopping series of sommelier blind tasting challenges comparing Italian varietals grown in the US and Italy.

Speaking at M Restaurant in The City of London, group vice president Francesco Zonin explained: "The idea is to discuss the wines in a new way, to try and understand the differences and similarities between Italian varieties planted on both sides of the Atlantic, to explore the potential of winemaking in Virginia by comparing the same varieties both side by side blind and with food."

Dubbed the 'Jefferson's Dream' sommeliers lunches, after American founding father and oenophile Thomas Jefferson, who attempted to make several vintages at Monticello in Virginia in the eighteenth century, these tastings are looking to explore Virginian terroir and confound 'Old World-New World' preconceptions through the prism of benchmark Italian styles.

Among the Italian wines featured were Vermentino, Viognier, Chardonnay, Sangiovese, Nebbiolo and a Petit Verdot-rich Bordeaux varietal blend, from regions as diverse as Piedmont, Tuscany and Sicily, each pitted against a Virginian counterpart of the same variety or style.

With a Virginian Nebbiolo standing out as perhaps "the most classically Italian tasting wine" at the event, the tasting highlighted the diversity of Virginia and difficulty of pigeonholing its wines as 'New World' or American when compared against a stylistically very diverse range of Italians from north to south.

Barboursville Vineyards Luca Paschina said: "There is a lot of variability in Virginia in terms of soils and climate, with vintage variation, and the styles of wines that can be made, and this is what we are looking to show."

Barboursville Vineyards, in the Monticello area, were planted by sixth generation family member Gianni Zonin as far back as 1976 and has been since been a key driver in building a reputation for premium Virginia wines both in the US and, increasingly, overseas. The vineyards are planted approximately 50-50 with Italian and 'international' varieties.

Francesco Zonin confirmed that 80% of Barboursville Vineyards wines are sold in the surrounding East Coast states, but with growing markets including major US cities such as Miami and San Francisco, and a renewed focus on export markets such as Italy and the UK.