Wineries Concerned About Grape Shortage

Moneta, VA - A grape shortage across the state may drive up the cost of Virginia wine.

In recent years, the state's wine industry has really taken off, but the supply of grapes just can't keep up with the demand.

For a wine bottle to have a Virginia label,75% of the grapes used have to have been locally grown.

The industry has grown so much, though, and last spring was such a bad season, that wineries are struggling to meet the mark.

"Wine is made on the vine, so where you get your grapes from tremendously affects the flavor," said Wine Grape Grower Donald Furrow-Scott.

When the Hickory Hill vineyard also became a winery in 2001, it was the 75th in the state. Now there are more than 250 licensed wineries, and the number increases by about 5% every year.

The number of vineyards has not increased to the same degree, however.

"Years ago there used to be three vineyards to a winery. Many of those vineyards converted over and became wineries themselves. So they are not producing as many grapes," said Furrow-Scott.

The hot and humid Virginia weather conditions always make it more challenging to grow traditional wine grapes.

There are also other factors that make it more difficult.

"Disease pressure, whether it is fungus or mildew. Insect pressure all of these things really add up," explained Furrow-Scott.

Wineries hope the shortage of grapes will encourage farmers to grow at least 200 more acres a year.

The process isn't an easy one, though.

"Grapes grow much like an orchard, it requires advanced planning and a number of years before the vines grow to be large enough to support a grape crop," said Furrow-Scott.

Tourists like Bert Mason from Indianapolis really want to enjoy the home grown wines.

"We are more interested in the local. The smaller wineries and trying to find what's different," Mason said.

So far, Furrow-Scott says the cold winter has set it up to be a particularly good year for vineyards, but it can all change if we see a lot of frost in April.