Wihy is Wine Being Made Everywhere?

Wihy is Wine Being Made Everywhere?
You might have noticed on your travels that there are vineyards and wineries in the most unexpected places. All 50 US States have bonded wineries; Thailand, Bali and Cape Verde also grow and make wine. You’ll find vineyards in the Welsh valleys and on the south-coast chalk hills of England and even Sweden.

Why is wine now being produced in places that don’t have a tradition? I think there are several reasons:

First, and most importantly, because there’s a demand for it. Wine has been democratised: more people are drinking more wine. It’s no longer the beverage of the rich, the gourmet and the aesthete, its everyman’s drink. Without people to buy wine, there’s no point making it.

It’s a profitable way for landowners to add value to agricultural produce. A farmer gets more money from land by growing grapes to make and sell wine than from just selling grapes.

And in many peripheral regions, for example the east-coast and mid-west of the USA, having a vineyard and winery gives a revenue stream as a tourist attraction and venue. Many are booked solid a years ahead for weddings – a vineyard and winery are romantic – you don’t hear of people booking potato farms to hold their wedding. At some of these operations events and tourism seem to be the main purpose of the business.

Government policies play a part. China encouraged planting grapes for wine as a more healthy option for its population than spirits and traditional ‘Chinese wine’. Previously the Soviet Union favoured wine production in trying to wean people off vodka.

In Thailand prohibitive taxes on imported alcohol (almost 100%) has made it viable for local wineries making wines from their own grapes and imported juice.

Some state governments are encouraging local wineries. Virginia very proactive this way, North Virginia is giving financial encouragement to farmers to move from tobacco growing to growing wine. British Columbia’s Governor sponsors an annual wine competition to encourage excellence.

It’s not all altruistic, when farmers get more money from selling wine than other crops, the local government gets more tax.

And enthusiasts, often wine loving amateurs, frequently lead the way in showing that wine can be made in an area.

Lastly science has given a better understanding of grape growing and the importance of rootstocks which means that good wine can be made in regions where it was previously thought impossible. For example the pioneering work of . Konstantin Frank in Finger Lakes, NY single handedly brought about the transition from native varieties and the development of northern New York State as a home for world class vinifera wines.

Also new varieties that make palatable wine have and are being bred to cope with extreme cold weather in northern USA and Canada to replace native American varieties by scientists at Cornell University, the University of Minnesota and grape breeders like Elmer Swenson in Wisconsin.

Talk about wine on our forum.

Peter F May is the author of Marilyn Merlot and the Naked Grape: Odd Wines from Around the World which features more than 100 wine labels and the stories behind them, and PINOTAGE: Behind the Legends of South Africa’s Own Wine which tells the story behind the Pinotage wine and grape.

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