Wine Wednesday: The Industry Grows

April 30, 2014

It's one of the biggest industries in the Commonwealth, generating hundreds of millions of dollars a year. In Central Virginia, the wine business is growing so fast, it's hard to keep up.

We are starting a new feature at the Newsplex called Wine Wednesday, where once a month we will look at a specific part of the wine industry. Tonight, we start with a look at its rapid growth by talking to the experts at Barboursville Vineyards.

Set amongst the ruins of former Governor James Barbour's mansion, designed by Thomas Jefferson, Barboursville Vineyards has 180 acres of grapes of several varieties. When their wines were first produced, you could count in the hundreds of cases. Now, the produce about 40,000 a year.

"From the consumer standpoint there's more and more awareness of quality available today, and that really created a lot of buzz quickly," said Barboursville Vineyards general manager Luca Paschina.

It's not just Barboursville, that buzz is fueling a growing industry. A 2012 study showed the wine industry generates over $747,000,000 per year for the Virginia economy. That includes the agricultural and tourism industries.

"Our biggest treasure is the people that come through our winery, we're close to 80,000 tourists this year," said Paschina.

It's no secret Virginia is producing a huge amount of wine these days, you can tell by looking around the barrel room, but Luca says the key to continuing that growth isn't quantity, it's quality.

"People are starting to be very selective, and knowing where the good wines are, and once you lose a customer, it's hard to get it back," said Paschina.

Word about the quality of Virginia wine is spreading quickly. Local wines continue to bring home awards from competitions all over the country, and are now available to drink all over the world.

"When it comes to distribution world wide, yes we are in London, we are in China, the netherlands, we are in Denmark," said Paschina. "But the amounts are small compared to what we produce, although they are targeted at very high end restaurants and wine shops."

Keeping the quality at the highest level possible is tricky. Virginia grapes are in high demand these days, and it takes three years for new vines to be able to produce. However, it will help keep growth in check and let wine makers like Luca do what they do best.

"What I like overall is that in our area in Monticello wine area we are seeing people we see consumers demanding on the quality of the wine, they are not just going out to drink what ever is cheap," said Paschina.

Putting the pressure on the local industry to keep their quality high while continuing to grow as a major economic engine in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

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