Virginia wine producers look to turn things around in the fall following a decline in sales

It has been a challenging year for wine producers, and the weather is at the top of the list. As Virginia Farm Bureau’s Burke Moeller reports, they are hoping the fall harvest season will give them a much needed boost.

Virginia wine producers are feeling the struggles brought on by COVID-19, as well as a fair share of weather hurdles.

According to Annette Boyd with the Virginia Wine Board, “A lot of wineries lost between 20 and 40 percent of their crop because of the frost.”

Seven frosts hit Virginia this spring. “We had four separate frost issues, and unfortunately, they were spaced out enough where they really did the maximum damage. For us here on site, we lost most of our grape production,” Kenny White, the owner of Chateau Merrill Anne, states.

On top of the frost, it has also been a very wet year in Virginia.

Wineries usually are in competition against one another for grapes and customers. However, this year they put that aside and worked together. “All the wineries in Virginia have been working together,” the co-owner of James River Cellars, Mitzi Batterson, notes. “We’ve been having a lot of meetings, and we’ve just been trying to do a really good job making sure that our employees stay safe, our customers stay safe.”

Grapes need high sugar content to have great flavor. The rainy summer has washed away hopes for a stellar season, but producers are still hoping for a good vintage this year.

Wine sales in the state are down 12.8 percent. Wineries hope that fall activities can help make up for that. Boyd adds, “12.8 percent-- it could have been so much worse. We’re actually thankful that it wasn’t worse, because wineries have a lot of open spaces and people have been stuck in their houses for a long time looking for things to do, wineries are an excellent alternative to get out of your house and go some place where it’s safe.”

The wine industry is feeling the squeeze from COVID.