‘Robust’ Virginia grape harvest ahead of schedule

The crush of Virginia’s wine grape harvest “is ahead of schedule, and the fruit is robust,” according to the Virginia Farm Bureau.

“The harvest looks like it’s coming along reasonably well so far,” noted Dr. Tony Wolf, viticulturalist for Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Alson H. Smith Jr. Agricultural Research and Extension Center.

Grape vines at DuCard Vineyards at the foot of Old Rag Mountain are brimming with grapes this summer. Photo by John McCaslin

Warm spring weather led to early bud bursts and put this year’s grape harvest a week or two ahead of schedule, Wolf explained. “The grapes are looking pretty good, and there is more fruit than what you normally see.”

Wolf said the typical harvest season for Virginia wine grapes is mid-August to late October, but this year some started in early August in the southern regions of the state.

There are more than 260 wineries in Virginia, according to the Virginia Wine Marketing office. An economic study released earlier this year reported that the state’s wine industry contributes more than $1.37 billion annually to the economy, an 82 percent increase from a similar study in 2010.

In fiscal 2016, sales of Virginia wine reached another record high with more than 556,500 cases — over 6.6 million bottles — sold.

Visitation to Virginia wineries increased as well, to over 2.3 million in 2015, according to the Virginia Tourism Corporation. Furthermore, wine sales at Virginia ABC stores grew by almost 10 percent in fiscal year 2016, to a total of 13,000 cases sold.

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