By Doug Fabbioli
Growing our sip!
Since October is Virginia Wine Month, I can get a little reflective on the growth and evolution of our industry. We have come a long way from the 70 or so farm wineries that we had back in 1997. The acreage planted has gone up substantially as well as the number of wineries to around 250. Also, last month the governor announced that Virginia wine sales hit a new high in 2015 at over 550,000 cases. These kinds of increases happen because of a number of factors, but I feel the most important one is quality.
Because Virginia vineyards and wineries are smaller than many in the world, more attention and effort is put into each batch of wine. It is a crafted product that shows the care and importance of each batch. Also, we have a rather knowledgeable and sophisticated wine market and they want world class wines.
Through leadership at the state level and investment of effort and funds from the wineries, we have been able to continue our quality growth curve to attain that level of stature. This year we have started the Virginia Wineries Research Exchange, where wineries are doing different experiments with their vineyards and winemaking processes and comparing and sharing the results with each other. This is a Virginia Wine Board funded project with the wineries taking on the brunt on the work. It is coordinated through 5 regional research leaders to keep scientific protocols in order and experiments relevant as well as non-redundant. This effort will keep our quality moving forward and we will be learning as an industry, not just individual businesses.
As you have heard me before, not all wines are perfect. If you do not like a wine, DON’T BUY IT! In our free capitalist society, we vote every day with our dollar. Remember that local dollars go a lot farther to influence your community, region and state. But if you find a wine that you do like, PLEASE BUY IT! Farm wineries commit many thousands of dollars to each acre of grapes it farms. That commitment keeps the land green, keeps the housing developers focused on building in the more residential areas, and keep the regenerating force of Mother Nature working on our soils, water and air.
Remember that in order to farm, we also need people to do the work! I had a friend who was considering working in the industry say to me the other day, “You want me to work harder, and get paid less?” Well, I guess there is no better description for what we do! There is no guaranteed paycheck, the days don’t end when the clock says so, but when the work is done. There is no government contract guaranteeing payment and employment. But, there is physical work, brain power, real people, always something to do, problem solving, leadership opportunities, collaborative spirit, self-motivation, teamwork and many other buzz words that actually come from our truly oldest profession….farming! So as I return to the vineyard to continue our 2016 vintage harvest, support your local farmers, buy the wines you like, and recognize that we always need crazy, driven people to do this endless, earthy job of growing stuff for others, whether it be grapes, corn, cattle or grains. Thanks for listening to today’s thoughts.