By Sally Voth
The Virginia wine industry has even more reason to toast itself -- wine sales reached the highest point ever in fiscal 2012.
Nearly 485,000 cases -- each case represents 12 bottles -- were sold in fiscal 2012, up from about 477,000 the previous year, according to a news release from Gov. Bob McDonnell's office.
That roughly 2 percent growth is less than the average of just more than 8 percent the previous three years.
Sales outside of the state were up nearly 40 percent from the previous year, and Virginia wine exports grew from about 700 cases in fiscal 2011 to more than 3,300 in fiscal 2012, according to the release. It states more than 14,000 cases were sold in other states.
Annette Boyd, Virginia Wine Marketing office director, said Tuesday afternoon that the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control measures the amount of wine sold within Virginia, but this year the Wine Marketing Office was able to capture outside sales.
"This is the first year that we've ever measured sales outside of Virginia," Boyd said.
She said that the office has been heavily marketing Virginia wine in Washington D.C., New York, North Carolina, and, more recently, London.
She explained there are three categories of outside sales: direct sales, such as those ordered online; wholesale distribution outside the state; and international sales through an importer or exporter.
McDonnell's release notes the governor's administration has focused marketing and export efforts on China and the United Kingdom.
"This growth is a testament to our grape growers and winemakers, who are producing world-class wines, which I [have] been pleased to help promote here and around the world," McDonnell states in the release. "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."
The governor and the General Assembly have worked to set up tax credits for new wineries and vineyards and for those wishing to expand, according to the release, and funding for the Virginia Wine Promotion Fund's research, education and marketing programs has nearly tripled.
The release cites ABC data showing more than $1.7 million worth of wine liter tax was collected in fiscal 2012. The tax is $3.60 per case.
International focus remains on China and England, Boyd said.
"London is the biggest wine market ever," she said. "It's the biggest and the oldest. The French market exists because of London and the U.K."
Boyd credits Virginia wines' success in that region to its "Old-World" style created by the climate and soil of the commonwealth, and making it similar to wines from France and Spain.
"The U.K. is a natural market for us," she said. "China has come out of nowhere. The governor has done several trade missions there, and the wine is very well received there."
Boyd seemed unsurprised that the total sales' growth wasn't as dramatic as in previous years.
"We always knew you just can't have double-digit growth in the state of Virginia every year," she said. "We always knew that at some point we would see a plateau, and I think this year is the year we saw a plateau."
Fox Meadow Winery in Linden has continually seen its sales grow, said Dan Mortland, who owns it with his wife, Cheryl.
"Our business has been very, very good," he said. "We're concentrating on producing high-quality wine that's acceptable to the most discriminating-type palates. Our business every year has increased since we opened to the public just seven years ago. Every year, we've seen double-digit growth. We find that business is good as long as you concentrate on the quality of the wine and hospitality when people come and visit."
Contact staff writer Sally Voth at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or email@example.com