- Associated Press - Sunday, July 19, 2015

ROANOKE, Va. (AP) - Grape production in Virginia hasn’t kept pace with the growth of wineries, creating a shortage that has driven up prices for wineries, wine producers and experts said.

A wine must have at least 75 percent Virginia fruit to have a Virginia label. Only Virginia wines can be sold in the state’s ABC stores.

Villa Appalaccia along the Blue Ridge Parkway at the border of Floyd and Patrick counties does not have enough space to grow vidal blanc grapes. It must buy the grape variety from another Virginia vineyard. The winery paid $900 a ton for vidal blanc grapes three years ago. Today, these grapes cost $1,300 a ton, owner Susanne Becker told The Roanoke Times (https://bit.ly/1VhnWeK ).

“We understand, growing grapes ourselves, that it’s not cheap,” she said. “The problem is there are too many wineries.”

The number of wineries in Virginia has jumped from 119 in 2007 to more than 255 today, said Annette Ringwood Boyd, director of the Virginia Wine Board marketing office.

The average grape price per ton in 2014 was $1,844, compared to $1,669 in 2012, according to the wine board. Boyd said smaller vineyards in other states tend to pay similar prices for their own local grapes.

Increasing grape production in Virginia is important to the industry, said Tony Wolfe, professor of viticulture at Virginia Tech.

“One way or another you have to get additional grapes in the ground and manage those grapes,” he told the newspaper.

Wolfe said the industry and the state are aware of the problem. But grape growing is expensive and there is no state funding to provide an incentive for such an endeavor.

It costs $3,000 to $4,000 to plant an acre of grapes, which does not include equipment and labor. Vines reach full production in about five years.

“It’s not something people just jump into on a whim. It’s not a decision people make lightly because there’s a lot of money and a lot of time to establish (a vineyard),” Boyd said.

She said the Wine Board and Virginia Vineyards Association are compiling information packets to give to potential new grape producers.

Some vineyards are capitalizing on the demand.

Rusty Thompson began grape production in 2009 with five acres. He has since expanded to 16 acres and hopes to add five or six more in the next couple of years.

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Information from: The Roanoke Times, https://www.roanoke.com


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