Even as the economy headed south last year, the United States saw the number of wineries within its borders increase to 6,223.
The message is clear: Ever so gradually, America has become a wine-drinking nation. As more and more people become aware of the health benefits associated with moderate wine consumption… not to mention the pure enjoyment that a glass of wine can bring… there will be a need for more wineries.
It’s interesting how the numbers, compiled by Wine Business Monthly, break down. Of the 6,223 wineries, 5,304 are bonded – “traditional” might be a better term. The other 919 are considered “virtual wineries.”
So what, exactly, is a virtual winery?
The legal definition is a winery that does not hold its own bond.
In practice, it’s a winery that has a physical location, but not its own winemaking facility or vineyards. It may take up space at an existing winery, and it produces at least one brand.
Obviously, it also must have a winemaker, but that person need not be the owner or an employee; he/she could be a consultant and actually make wine for a number of wineries – bonded and/or virtual.
The number of virtual wineries is less stable than the number of bonded wineries, simply by virtue of the virtual winery’s structure – or, more accurately, lack of structure. To illustrate, the number of virtual wineries in 2009 actually represents a decrease when compared to 2005, when there were 1,758.
Does this mean that more than 800 virtual wineries went out of business? No. More likely, a slid majority of them took the next step and became bonded.
The bottom line: There are many ways for wine – good wine – to be made, and the process does not require a vintner to have a bricks-and-mortar operation. There’s no reason wine from as virtual winery can’t be every bit as good as wine from a bonded winery.
And from the look of things, there should be plenty of wineries – bonded and virtual – to supply America’s ever increasing thirst for good vino.