By Samantha Morgan
Capital News Service
RICHMOND – Gov. Bob McDonnell has good reason to break open a bottle of Virginia wine and celebrate: Wine produced by the state’s vineyards posted record sales last year.
Virginia wineries sold about 485,000 cases of wine during the 2012 fiscal year, which ended June 30. That was up about 2 percent from the previous record of 477,000 cases in 2011. And wine exports, to both other states and other countries, jumped a combined 39 percent.
“More sales provide more economic development and job creation opportunities, especially for the vineyards, wineries and the many businesses supporting them, like restaurants and bed-and-breakfast establishments, all across the commonwealth,” McDonnell said this week in announcing the sales figures.
The biggest increase was in the export of Virginia wines to other countries, especially the United Kingdom and China. The state wine industry’s international exports quadrupled – from about 700 cases in 2011 to more than 3,300 cases last year.
“Virginia wines continue to be rising stars in the global wine industry,” said Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore. He noted that Wine Enthusiast magazine named Virginia as one of the top ten wine destinations in the world.
Katie Hellebush, executive director of the Virginia Wine Council, says the governor and first lady Maureen McDonnell have been “our greatest cheerleaders” in promoting wines from the state’s vineyards.
Sales of Virginia wines to other U.S. states increased 24 percent last year – to more than 14,000 cases.
Virginia is fifth in the country in the number of wineries; there are more than 230 in the Old Dominion. The industry provides jobs for more than 4,700 Virginians and pumps almost $750 million into the state’s economy.
Hellebush said the wine industry could get even bigger with help from the General Assembly.
“We have put forth legislation in the past to create tax credits to be able to provide for growth in the industry,” she said.
“A lot of the equipment people are using is very expensive. And so that is just kind of one more tool in the toolbox for people to be able to use to have some funding to help them grow their business.”