Wednesday, May 22, 2013

When it’s Hard to Watch the News

          This is another one of those weeks when I turn on the television, and I inevitably walk away with tears in my eyes.  There just seems to be so much bad news lately:  Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, Boston Marathon bombing, Oklahoma tornados.  It is really hard for me to focus on wine and writing about wine (a subject that makes me so incredibly happy and joyful) with so much sorrow and pain in the world.  I wish I could write words that would help the victims, help the families of victims, help those of us who want to do more…but instead I write about wine.  At first I was thinking of how trivial wine seems in times like these.  Then I realized, wine is very serious business, and it is the livelihood of thousands and thousands of people in the United States alone, not even taking into account how many people in the world rely on wine for the roofs over their families’ heads and the food for their children’s mouths.  Wine is a very important industry.

            According to the National Grape and Wine Initiative in 2007, the wine industry is responsible for over 162 billion (with a B!) dollars of economic impact in the U.S.  Research done by MFK Research LLC in a report entitled The Impact of Wine, Grapes, and Grape Products on the American Economy: Family Businesses Building Value, the wine industry provides over one million full-time American jobs.  Part-time and seasonal work could also be added to this number.  Wine making starts with the grapes, which is essentially an agricultural business, and big business at that.  In 2005, there were 23,856 grape growers—that’s a lot of grapes!  In 2000, there were a total of 2,904 wineries in the U.S.; in 2005 there were 4,929.  By 2012, estimates that number at 7,116.  All of these wineries create over 11 billion dollars in winery sales revenue (again from the 2007 article).   Over three billion dollars can be attributed to winery tourism expenditures.  These numbers are proof of the growing importance of wine in our country.  Grapes and grape juice also add to the overall industry (though they may not be as fun for us to consume…wink).  The non-fermented family members of wine add another 1.669 billion dollars to the economy.  All of these numbers add up to a lot of tax dollars:  17.1 billion in federal, state, and local taxes.

            Many of us may automatically think of the large wine producing areas, like California, Washington, and Oregon, when we think about the above numbers.  However, all 50 states now have wineries; my little, old, sparsely-populated Wyoming already has three—only one using state-grown fruit.  South Dakota, a state where agriculture is the number one industry, now has multiple vineyards and wineries.  Though grapes are still in the “other” category of agricultural products here (where corn and soybeans are royalty), growing grapes and fruit for wine on a commercial basis is a part of the ag industry that didn’t even exist twenty years ago!  This can be said for many states in the Midwest, like Minnesota, Wisconsin (both in the forefront of creating and using hybrid grapes), Nebraska, and Colorado (which now has two AVAs—Grand Valley and West Elks).  Wine has turned into a budding (pun intended) and important growth industry all over America. 
Scenes from the "budding" wine industry:
Table Mountain Vineyards--Huntley, Wyoming
Belle Joli Winery--Belle Fourche, South Dakota
Grand Valley AVA--Colorado

            During these hard times that are so much in our thoughts and minds, it may be hard to focus on the fun parts of wine—the smelling, sipping, laughing, and loving.  However, it is essential to remember the serious side of wine.  It is an important industry all over the nation, an industry that a mere two decades ago was non-existent in many states, like the area I call home.  I wish all of the families hit by the recent disasters well and will keep praying for them.  I also wish all the wine industry families well and will keep praying for an industry that continues to strengthen our economy.