RICHMOND — Virginia wineries sold a record 6.3 million bottles of wine over the past year, while the state’s makers of alcoholic cider saw sales more than double, according to state figures released Tuesday.
Wine sales were up by about 108,000 bottles, an increase of about 2 percent in a maturing but still growing industry. Sales were explosive in the relatively new craft cider industry, which the Virginia Wine Marketing Office tracked separately from wine for the first time.
The state’s cider makers sold more than 496,000 cases in the fiscal year that ended June 30, compared to 164,000 cases the previous year.
“I’m pleased to see continued sales growth for our wines and ciders in Virginia, which means more jobs and revenue across the Commonwealth, especially in our rural areas where most of our wineries and cideries are located,” Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) said in a written statement.
Virginia has seen rapid growth in its wine industry in recent decades. The state had just six wineries in 1979, before the adoption of farm winery laws that spurred sharp growth. There are about 275 today, with around 255 of those open for touring and tasting.
The state ranks fifth in the nation for the number of wineries and is tied with Massachusetts for seventh in the number of cideries. The state’s first cidery, Foggy Ridge Cider in Carroll County, established its orchards in 1998 and opened for business in 2006. Now the state has 18. The state also has 100 craft breweries and 20 craft distilleries.
McAuliffe has sought to position Virginia as a leading craft beverage maker, part of his broader goal of expanding and diversifying the state’s defense-heavy economy. The governor has adopted a playful tone as he promotes those industries. He often pledges to visit all of the state’s craft breweries, adding, “Somebody’s got to do it.” He even installed a kegerator in the governor’s mansion as he courted one brewery to set up shop in the state. But the deals are big business.
Virginia’s wine industry employs more than 4,700 people and contributes almost $750 million a year to the state’s economy, according to state figures. More than 1.6 million tourists visited Virginia wineries last year, according to the Virginia Tourism Cooperation.
“Virginia’s wine and cider industries are a source of pride, and they are bringing more national and international attention, tourists, and revenue to the Commonwealth as we build a new Virginia economy,” said Todd Haymore, Virginia’s secretary of agriculture and Forestry.