Exploring VA Wines – January 2015

I have spent a lot of my time over the years working with organizations involved in the wine industry and Northern Virginia’s rural economy and continue to do so. It seems like I am on more boards now than ever before. This allows me a broader view of how each of the groups relates to and feeds each other; there are some trends and developments in the industry that we should look for this year. Among them:

  1. The new winery movement in Virginia is cresting. The 2015 Virginia wine guide has added 8 new wineries to the map while 5 wineries dropped off the guide. My take on this is that the grape shortage and price increases have affected the business plans of wineries. We must now focus on growing the wineries we have, and growing the grapes to do that.
  2. More wineries offer “dark horse” varieties. Increasingly, customers are interested in new releases at wineries. As grape growers, we regularly look for varietals that will grow well in our climate and at the same time make a good wine. Tannat and Petit Verdot are good examples. They may not be dark horses now, but they certainly were in the past. Vermentino, Petit Manseng, Touriga and Rousanne are good examples of the next dark horse wave.
  3. The Wine Tourism Conference will be in Loudoun County this November. This annual conference travels to different wine regions. 2015 will be the first time the East Coast is hosting, affirming that we in the Mid-Atlantic region continue to gain in reputation for quality and experience. It is important that we are authentic in our products and our presentation. This event will show off all we have to offer.
  4. Epicurience Virginia Food and Wine Festival is three years old. This event continues to redefine the area wine festivals. The price for attending is higher than for other festivals, but the experience and education offered are also at a higher level. The best wines from the participating wineries will be enjoyed along with celebrity chefs, food samples, wine demos, cooking demos and epicurean education.
  5. More cideries, distilleries and breweries are opening. I have heard from some winery owners about the concern that the craft breweries will take away business from the wineries. However, the model that we have been thriving under shows that more businesses and consumer activity in the rural lands will increase business in each operation. As long as these new operations fit with the rural zoning and learn local culture, there should be no problem. I am inspired by the cider industry and how many new trees are being planted with varieties specific for hard cider.
  6. Growing new farmers continues to be a critical effort. The Beginning Farmers program continues to gain participants, mentors and recognition. This educational movement will play an important role in the success of using agriculture as the base of local business in the 21st century.

So the year 2015 has a lot in store for the VA wine industry and the rest of the rural economy. I will continue to serve on these boards and committees in order to be a part of this evolving culture. We all benefit with good products, experiences, and career opportunities.

Written by: Doug Fabbioli

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