Virginians planting, harvesting more wine grapes

L_102910-cals-wineVirginia’s 2014 commercial wine grape harvest was more than 17 percent larger than that of 2013 with 8,039 tons, up from 6,862 tons. The 2014 harvest is second only to the 2009 harvest of more than 8,600 tons.

The state’s 2014 commercial grape report also showed double-digit percentage growth for tons of wine grapes produced in vinifera, hybrid and American grape categories, and significant growth in non-bearing acres of vinifera grapes. Bearing acres increased by 56 acres, or 2 percent, over 2013. Non-bearing acres, or acres that are newly planted and not yet bearing fruit for harvest, grew by 67 acres, a 19 percent increase over 2013.

Overall wine grape production increased due to growth in new bearing acres and a more favorable growing season than the state experienced in 2013 or 2012.

“It’s great to see that the investment in new vineyard acreage is beginning to pay dividends for the industry,” said Tony Banks, a commodity marketing specialist for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “Virginia’s growth in wine sales has outpaced its growth in fruit production. We still need more bearing acreage if we’re to continue robust wine sales.”

According to Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore, Virginia’s wine advocacy organizations are assisting vineyard owners with planting analysis. The commonwealth has several tools, including the Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development fund and the Winery and Vineyard Tax Credit program, to incentivize new production.

Since fiscal year 2010, when several state initiatives were launched, sales of Virginia wines have increased by about 26 percent. From fiscal year 2013 to fiscal year 2014, sales grew by only 2 percent, marking the smallest increase during the past few years, as a result of a limited fruit supply.

Virginia currently ranks fifth nationwide for number of wineries, with more than 255, and for wine grape production. According to a 2011 economic impact study, the Virginia wine industry employs more than 4,700 people and contributes almost $750 million to the state’s economy annually.

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