By Maura Mazurowski
Capital News Service
RICHMOND – Pour yourself a drink and raise a toast to the record 6.6 million bottles of Virginia wine sold last year – an increase of more than 6 percent from 2015.
Officials said Thursday that a new economic impact study shows the state’s flourishing wine industry contributes more than $1.37 billion annually to Virginia’s economy. This is an increase of 82 percent from the last economic impact study in 2010.
“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,” Gov. Terry McAuliffe said in a press release.
The Virginia Wine Board commissioned Frank, Rimmerman + Co., an accounting and consulting firm that specializes in wine industry studies, to conduct the 2015 Economic Impact Study of Wine and Wine Grapes (updated January 2017) on the Commonwealth of Virginia.
The study showed that the number of Virginia wineries jumped 35 percent – from 193 to 261 – between 2010 and 2015. (The number of wineries has since risen to more than 285.)
During the five-year period studied, full-time jobs at wineries and vineyards increased 73 percent, from 4,753 to 8,218, and wages from jobs at wineries and vineyards soared by 87 percent, from $156 million to $291 million.
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Tourism to Virginia wineries also grew, from 1.6 million visitors in 2010 to 2.25 million visitors in 2015, the report said.
The number of acres devoted to growing grapes in Virginia increased from 2,700 in 2010 to 3,300 in 2015. The taxes on grape-bearing lands paid to state and local governments jumped from $43 million to $94 million.
“Unlike many industries, once vineyards and wineries are established, they are effectively rooted and tied to their communities,” said Basil Gooden, Virginia’s secretary of agriculture and forestry. “A Virginia vineyard cannot simply be relocated to another region or outsourced to another country.”
Nationwide, the state ranks fifth in the number of wineries and as a wine grape producer, Virginia officials said.