Booming wine industry boosts Virginia economy

WYDaily.com is your source for free news and information in Williamsburg, James City & York Counties.

A recent study has shown the economic impact of Virginia’s growing wine industry has increased 82 percent in five years. (Courtesy Williamsburg Winery)
A recent study has shown the economic impact of Virginia’s growing wine industry has increased 82 percent in five years. (Courtesy Williamsburg Winery)

Wine lovers, rejoice! Virginia’s wineries have become a flourishing part of our state’s economy.

A recent study has shown the economic impact of Virginia’s growing wine industry has increased 82 percent in five years, contributing more than $1.37 billion dollars to Virginia’s economy in 2015 alone, according to a Governor’s Office news release.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced Thursday that the study, the “2015 Economic Impact Study of Wine and Wine Grapes on the Commonwealth of Virginia,” reported substantial growth in the number of wineries, number of employees at wineries and the amount of money contributed to the state’s economy.

“Since the beginning of my administration, one of our top agriculture goals was to make Virginia the preeminent East Coast destination for wine and winery tourism, and I am pleased our efforts are helping make this a reality,” McAuliffe said in the release.

“The Virginia wine industry has continued to see tremendous growth over last five years, which has bolstered tourism across the Commonwealth,” he continued. “This new study shows that this growth is being driven by small wineries, which demonstrates that the increased rural economic development is truly beneficial to local communities. I commend our Virginia wineries and grape growers for their hard work in making world-class wines that are driving this success and building the new Virginia economy.”

Virginia wine sales reached a record high in fiscal year 2016 with more than 6.6 million bottles sold, a six percent increase over fiscal year 2015 the release said.

The local Williamsburg Winery has also seen tremendous growth in the last few years.

“The industry, in my opinion, has really hit a major milestone in the last couple years,” Williamsburg Winery President and CEO Patrick Duffeler II said. “The economic growth of the industry is something to feel proud of.”

The most recent winery study before 2015, which was completed in 2012, reported 193 wineries statewide, over 4,753 people employed in the wine industry and more than $747 million was contributed to the economy.

A recent study has shown the economic impact of Virginia’s growing wine industry has increased 82 percent in five years. (Courtesy Williamsburg Winery)
A recent study has shown the economic impact of Virginia’s growing wine industry has increased 82 percent in five years. (Courtesy Williamsburg Winery)

The 2015 study, completed by Frank, Rimmerman + Co. in January, shows double digit growth in most areas between 2012 and 2015, the release said.

There was a 35 percent increase in the number of wineries, from 193 in 2012 to 261 in 2015; a 73 percent increase in employment, from 4,753 in 2012 to 8,218 in 2015; and an 87 percent increase in wages from jobs at wineries, from $156 million in 2012 to $291 million in 2015.

Beyond substantial growth, the quality of the wine is a main focus at the Williamsburg Winery, Duffeler said.

“What I’m most proud of, to be very frank, is that qualitatively the industry has also turned a corner,” he said. “The quality is really our driving force, as well as the driving force for our other colleagues in the industry.”

Three Williamsburg Winery wines were rated at least 90 points on renowned wine critic Robert Parker’s 100-point rating scale, a point of pride for the local winery. The ratings appeared in the magazine “The Wine Advocate.”

“When his magazine gives a rating to a wine of 90 points or better, that’s really an indication it’s a truly superb and high-quality wine,” Duffeler said.

Tourism to wineries also drives Virginia’s economy, showing strong growth in the study, the release said.

The number of people visiting wineries rose from 1.6 million visitors in 2010 to 2.25 million in 2015, the release said. Although tourism rose, the costs associated with tourism also increased by 43 percent, from $131 million in 2010 to $188 million in 2012.

The study says the increase is due to an increasing number of wineries and the growing quality of wines as winery tourism becomes more popular.

An expanding number of visitors has also kept the Williamsburg Winery busier than ever, Duffeler said.

“The Virginia wine industry continues to be one of the fastest growing segments of Virginia’s diverse agricultural industry,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Basil I. Gooden. “We are especially proud of the health and growth our wine industry. Unlike many industries, once vineyards and wineries are established, they are effectively rooted and tied to their communities – a Virginia vineyard cannot simply be relocated to another region or outsourced to another country. Virginia wine and grapes are inextricably tied to the soil from which they are grown. Many of these wineries are providing important jobs in the rural areas of our state.”

A recent study has shown the economic impact of Virginia’s growing wine industry has increased 82 percent in five years. (Courtesy Williamsburg Winery)
A recent study has shown the economic impact of Virginia’s growing wine industry has increased 82 percent in five years. (Courtesy Williamsburg Winery)

The 2015 report also showed a 22 percent increase of grape-bearing acreage during the five-year period, as well as a 188 percent increase in tax revenue for state and local governments.

The only major area to show a decrease was the number of grape growers, which indicates a “healthy consolidation” of grape acreage under fewer growers, the release said.

“More grape acreage under fewer growers will help reduce the over cost of growing the grapes and provide for strong economic viability for the industry,” the release said.

For more information on what local breweries, distilleries, meaderies and wineries are in the Williamsburg area, click here.

Fearing can be reached at 207-975-5459.