The growth of our state’s wine industry is a great economic success story, particularly in the Yadkin Valley area where it’s helping fill the void left after the decline of textiles and tobacco. No one can say for sure whether our state will ever rival California in the wine marketplace, but the road to that pinnacle may start at home.
Steve Shepard, the president of the NC Winegrower’s Association, says North Carolinians consume about eight million cases of wine a year, but only about seven percent of that is North Carolina wine. There’s a growing trend with food to buy local. Shepard would like to see that trend extend to wine. He says the industry could grow significantly if more North Carolinians would drink North Carolina wine.
North Carolina’s small, family-owned wineries can’t compete with a lot of the wine from California, Australia and South America that sells for less than ten dollars a bottle. They find it hard to squeeze onto supermarket shelves and restaurant menus. Sure, they tend to be more expensive, but Shepard says those few extra dollars help create jobs and support our economy here at home.
You have to buy most North Carolina wine directly from the wineries, but visiting those wineries to sample different wines is helping support our economy too. Wine tourism is growing and leading to the creation of spin-off businesses like hotels, restaurants and tour companies.
When you do tastings at our state’s wineries quite often the person pouring the wine is the winemaker or winery owner. They are a diverse group of people with interesting backgrounds and fascinating stories to tell. Meeting those people, tasting their wines, seeing where those wines are made and the vineyards where the grapes are grown helps you develop an affinity for those wines you just can’t get at the supermarket or wine store.
When you buy wine at a North Carolina winery, you’re not just buying a bottle of wine; you’re buying a memory.