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Thanks, Tourists! NC Wine Is Now A $2B Industry

Kaleb Fulgham
Flickr/Creative Commons,
Officials say tourism is the main reason North Carolina's wine industry has grown in recent years.

North Carolina viticulture has blossomed into a $2 billion industry. It's got tourism to thank for the growth.Whit Winslow of the North Carolina Wine and Grape Growers Council said wineries in the state draw about 2 million visitors per year.

"The popularity of North Carolina wineries has grown and the quality has grown, and folks are really seeing that," Winslow said. "The demand has gone up, and so we've had a lot of new wineries popping up and a lot of existing wineries expanding their production."

There are now nearly 200 wineries in North Carolina. Winslow said that's almost double the number in 2012.

"If they go to a wine shop, they may get a bottle of wine or two, but very often when they visit a winery, they come out with half a case, a case, or even more than that," Winslow said. They really take advantage of the experience they had while they're there and bring it home with them."

A new Wine Quality Alliance program at Appalachian State University is beginning to distinguish high quality wines from around the state, according to Winslow. He hopes that will boost retail sales of local wines.

Viticulture now makes up about 2 percent of North Carolina's ag portfolio.

Rebecca Martinez produces podcasts at WUNC. She’s been at the station since 2013, when she produced Morning Edition and reported for newscasts and radio features. Rebecca also serves on WUNC’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accountability (IDEA) Committee.
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