NC wine industry provides large economic impact

Published 7:17 pm Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Pop open a bottle because North Carolina’s wine industry continues to see success.

In a recent study conducted by Frank, Rimerman and Co., the state’s wine and grape industry showed an economic impact of $1.97 billion in 2016 — a 15-percent increase in just two years. The study was commissioned by the N.C. Wine and Grape Growers Council and utilized the most recent data available from last year.

“Our state’s population is growing and the demand for wine is rising in proportion. The climate and soils are perfect for growing grapes,” said Phil Guy, owner of Seven Pines Vineyard and Winery in Fountain. Seven Pines is the first vineyard in Pitt County, and one of the most local, along with Bennett Vineyards in Edward.

“North Carolina holds the distinction of being one of a few places on earth that can successfully grow all species of wine grapes,” Guy said.

Since 2013, the state’s wineries saw a 96-percent increase in wine cases produced, as well as a 40-percent increase in wages paid, retail value of wine and taxes paid, according to the study.

Guy said he has seen a new trend where farmers are beginning to plant vineyards instead of growing tobacco. This could bode well for the industry in eastern N.C., which has an extensive history in the tobacco field that continues today.

“I welcome the increase in number of wineries in North Carolina,” Guy said. “It benefits local economies, spurs employment and fosters North Carolina’s growing agri-tourism business.”

The wine industry’s expansion across the state is also positive for rural areas, as they possess the acreage necessary to plant vineyards. As of 2016, there were 2,300 grape-bearing acres in North Carolina, according to the study. There are 525 commercial grape growers in the state, and as of Sept. 1, 186 wineries.

“When you establish a vineyard in a community, you are physically and financially setting down roots in that community for the long haul,” Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler stated in a press release. “Growth in the state’s wine industry represents long-term economic growth for rural North Carolina.”

That’s something local wine sellers, from specialty stores in downtown Washington to restaurants in Belhaven, can appreciate.