How do you measure “quality”?
Virginia winemakers espouse a quality philosophy in both grape growing and winemaking. We’ve looked at methods to achieve quality in the vineyard, but how is that quality measured once the wines are available for sale? Dr. Sudha Patil holds a degree in chemistry and is owner/winemaker at Narmada Winery in Amissville and a member of the Commonwealth Quality Alliance. She explains:
Q: What is the Commonwealth Quality Alliance?
A: The Commonwealth Quality Alliance is an initiative of the Virginia Wineries Association to promote Virginia-grown wines which meet international standards and showcase the Virginia wine industry.
Q: What makes a winery eligible for membership?
A: First and foremost, the wines must be made with 100% Virginia grapes.
Q: How do they establish a wine’s quality?
A: Each wine submitted must pass rigorous purity and quality standards as measured by a series of lab tests and analyses. Acidity and pH are measured, along with stability and of course sugar and alcohol to ensure the wine is properly labeled. The tests detect any flaws in the product.
Q: Aren’t all farm wineries using Virginia fruit?
A: Legally, you only need to have 75% Virginia grapes in the bottle to label it a Virginia wine.
Q: Are all the best Virginia wines CQA-certified?
A: Narmada was one of the first fourteen CQA members. Today there are about 26 member wineries and over 50 wines have been certified. For ourselves, we submit a certain number of wines per year for analysis, so we are slowly making our way to being 100% certified. So far, everything we’ve submitted has made the grade! Some of the smaller wineries here don’t produce enough wine to send for certification.
Q: Any final thoughts?
A: I’ll leave you with this mission statement from CQA: “Moving forward, the Virginia wine industry must prove itself by having not only a great sense of history, but also showcasing itself as a world leader for quality and its support of locally grown fruit for our wines.”