COLUMBIA — The state of Missouri has seen steady growth in the wine industry in the past decade, both in the number of wineries and in wine production.
During that time Missouri has broken into the top 10 of wine-producing states, moving up to No. 8 in 2012 with 1.17 million gallons, according to data from the Missouri Wine and Grape Board.
Missouri wine at a glance:
- Number of operating wineries: 118
- Full-time jobs: 14,051
- Wages paid: $386.5 million
- 9 liter cases of wine produced: 491,721
- Retail value of Missouri wine: $59.2 million
- Winery revenue: $42.4 million
- Wine-related tourism spending: $175.7 million
- Number of wine-related visits: 850,000
- State and federal taxes paid: $176.2 million
Source: Missouri Wine and Grape Board
There are 118 wineries operating in Missouri compared to 42 in 2003, the oldest data the Wine and Grape Board has on wineries in the state. In 2012, state wine production was 1.17 million gallons.
"It's been great to see this industry grow and gain prominence like it did before prohibition, when Missouri was well-known for their wine and grape growing," Jim Anderson, executive director of the Missouri Wine and Grape Board, said. "It's nice to see Missouri getting back to its roots, growing grapes, making wine and being involved and winning wine contests across the state."
Across the U.S., wineries have increased at an even greater rate than in Missouri. In 2002, there were 2,500 wineries in the United States. In 2012, that number was more than 7,000.
Although most of the new wineries in Missouri are small — about 80 percent produce less than 5,000 cases of wine a year — the impact of the industry on Missouri's economy nearly tripled between 2005 and 2009 to more than $1.6 billion in economic value, according to the state Wine and Grape Board.
Anderson attributes growth in the industry to a number of factors including more public interest in wine.
Wine prices have decreased worldwide since 2008, Anderson said, making wine more accessible to consumers, and consumers are drinking more wine per person.
Another reason for growth in the industry is that people connect with the sense of pride associated with the process of wine-making.
After a grower plants grapes, it might take five years before they are in full production. And then the grapes are harvested, processed and aged, sometimes for years in a barrel before the wine is sold.
"Seeing this thing from start to finish — from grape to table — is very appealing to a lot of people out there," Anderson said. "They want to be part of the wine culture, grape growing, they want to work in land, give back part of the land. It's a way to get back to the land."
Anderson also has seen an increased interest in agritourism in the United States. Because Americans are taking shorter vacations and opting to take trips closer to home, he said Missouri wineries are benefiting. The Wine and Grape Board estimates that 850,000 people visit Missouri wineries a year.
The success of wineries clustered along “wine trails” along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers is critical to Missouri's agribusiness economy, said Fabio Chaddad, MU assistant professor of agricultural economics.
"With the economy and people's schedules getting busier, vacationers can only get away for a day or two, and a lot of them are staying in Missouri and visiting wineries," Anderson said. "If tourism money stays in the community and the region and recycled back into the state, it is a win-win for everybody."
In the 1800s, Missouri ranked No. 2 in wine production, before California's wine industry started picking up in the 1900s and taking the majority of the market share.
"I think that’s why a lot of consumers just assume that great wines just come from California," Anderson said. "They haven’t had a chance to venture out and try Missouri wines and wines from across the country."
Anderson said one of the more challenging aspects of promoting Missouri wine is that consumers are more familiar with vinifera grapes, which make the most popular kinds of wine such as cabernet, sauvignon, merlot and chardonnay. Typical grapes grown in Missouri are heartier, French-American hybrids that haven't been as prevalent for consumers: Norton, vignoles, seyval and chambourcin.
"But, some of our wines are world class, so we try to educate consumers to get out there and try Missouri wines, even if they aren't as familiar," Anderson said.
Chaddad said research is important to advancing the industry in Missouri. "We need to continue to develop our own grape varieties and research to develop higher quality wine in Missouri, like California did."
Although there have been a few wineries that have closed after financial difficulties, according to a survey Chaddad conducted of 86 wineries in Missouri and two other states, only 2 percent of new winery owners surveyed said they started producing wine primarily to make money.
Thirty percent of new owners surveyed said they did so because of their love of wine, 22 percent wanted to improve their quality of life, 19 percent wanted to “get their hands in the dirt” in agriculture, and 10 percent started making wine because of the sense of community.
"If you look at economic reasons as far as dollars, its down on the list," Anderson said. "We have a love of wine, we want to work with the land, we feel good about growing something and seeing its value added and sold. It’s all these above before it really is economical, money-driven."
Supervising editor is John Schneller.