The Virginia Wine Industry

The Growing Virginia Wine Industry

virginia_wine_1aIn 1619 the Jamestown settlers signed into law a requirement for each male settler to plant and tend at least ten grape vines! The vision for Virginia wine dates back four centuries, and even includes Thomas Jefferson, who grew grapes on the famous Monticello. But it is the past three decades that have seen that vision for a growing Virginia wine industry come to life.

The harvesting of some specific varietals chosen to match the Virginia growing conditions in the 1970’s, and the subsequent opening of several new wineries began the 30 years transition of Virginia wine from the hobby of local farmers to an industry that is creating job growth, tax revenue and an opportunity to prolong the agricultural roots of Virginia. Among those first vineyards starting in the 70’s are the core vines that are now part of Pearmund Cellars.

Growth in Volume – production, acreage, export, etc...

From 6 wineries in 1979 to 46 in 1995 and 107 in 2005, Virginia now hosts over 230 wineries, the fifth largest in the United States.

An economic impact study commissioned by the Virginia Wine Board in 2005 and again in 2010 revealed not only growth in production and international recognition, but a significant economic impact to the state of Virginia that has been recognized publicly by Governor Bob McDonnell.

And in 2012 the Virginia wine industry had another reason to toast itself -- wine sales reached the highest point ever for Virginia wine. Nearly 485,000 cases -- each case represents 12 bottles -- were sold in fiscal 2012, up from about 477,000 the previous year, according to a news release from Gov. Bob McDonnell’s office.

Growth in Tourism

virginia_wine_2aA unique attribute of the Virginia wine industry is its close ties to tourism, a tie that resulted in a 60% growth in wine related tourism from 2005 to 2010. Virginia wine is about the experience, the adventure, excitement and story of visiting a winery and tasting the “fruits” of their labor in the midst of a vineyard and beautiful Virginia countryside.

For most Virginia wineries, over 80% of their revenue comes from retail sales – winery sales, paid tastings, groups, and partnerships with the local community. A growing element of revenue is the hosting of events such as weddings and special dinners, like the Valentine’s Day dinners that are now a tradition at Pearmund Cellars.

Growth in National and International Recognition

Virginia is also growing in the national and international spotlight, highlighted by being named “One of the 10 Best Wine Travel Destinations of 2012” by Wine Enthusiast Magazine. The accolades continue with a long list of awards earned by Pearmund Cellars labels since they opened in 2003.

Proof of national notoriety and financial opportunity in Virginia wine took an interesting turn in 2011 when billionaire real estate mogul Donald Trump invested in the industry. Purchasing the troubled Kluge Estate Winery in April of 2011, they re-opened as Trump Vineyard Estates in October with the Governor on hand.

virginia_wine_3aAlso in 2011, Steve and Jean Case, of America Online fame, bought Sweely Estate Winery with a commitment to its success and full support for the Virginia Wine Industry. Though not as public as the Trump purchase, the addition of the Case family, 30 year residents of Virginia, indicates additional investment in the industry.

Sales outside of the state in 2011 were up nearly 40 percent from the previous year, and Virginia wine exports grew from about 700 cases in fiscal 2011 to more than 3,300 in fiscal 2012.

Growth in Support

Over the last several years, government and communities have recognized the importance of the wine industry to the Virginia economy. At the state level they have worked to set up tax credits for winery and vineyard start-ups and expansion. Funding for the Virginia Wine Promotion Fund’s research, education and marketing programs has nearly tripled.