I doubt many people successfully filled out their March Madness brackets to predict Butler and the University of Connecticut appearing in the final game. Similarly, if you were to fill out a bracket of wine from around the world, I doubt very many people would have a Virginia Cabernet Franc winning the whole thing. Yet that is just what happened last month when Jessica Milby, a fellow Virginia wine blogger and myself, organized a March Madness-style wine tasting. Fabbioli Cellars Cabernet Franc won the whole thing, and a second Virginia wine – Phillip Carter Chardonnay – made it to the Final Four. The other two wines in the Final Four were from California and Chile.

During our tasting, the underdogs prevailed time and time again. Wines from regions that wouldn’t have been taken seriously ten years ago eliminated wines from France and the more-established regions of California. These regions – such as Loudoun County, Virginia - are now producing interesting, complex and great-drinking wines.

The wines were separated into four regions – Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Viognier and Local Specialties. Cabernet Franc and Viognier both grow really well in Virginia’s climate, so we decided to give them the home field advantage. Chardonnay was chosen because it grows in practically every winemaking region and is one of the most reflective of a winemaker’s craft. The Local Specialties category was a way to highlight unique wines that are associated with particular regions: Zinfandel from California, Pinotage from South Africa, Norton from Virginia and Carmenere from Chile. While these wines have little in common in terms of taste and style, it did give the tasters the opportunity to try more unique wines. The winner of this category was Shenandoah Vineyards Zinfandel from California.