Beer Isn't Colorado's Only Local Pour

New study shows the impact of wine sales and tourism has tripled since 2005

by Linda Jones McKee
Impact of Colorado wine industry passes $144 million.
Denver, Colo.—The first time I visited Colorado wineries in the 1980s, I went to all two of them, one outside Colorado Springs and one in Palisades, on the western slope. Today there are 101 bonded and four virtual wineries in the state, according to Wines Vines Analytics, and the economic impact of the industry has multiplied many times. The Colorado Wine Industry Development Board in early December released the results of an economic impact study they had commissioned from Colorado State University’s Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics (DARE). The study was conducted in 2012-13 in order to update a similar study done in 2005.

In just seven years, the economic impact of Colorado wine industry rose from nearly $42 million in 2005 to more than $144 million in 2012. Sales of Colorado wine rose from $11 million in 2005 to more than $28 million in fiscal year 2013, and the number of jobs that wine, wine-related activities (such as wine festivals) and wine tourism supports has increased to 1,665.

The data also shows that Colorado wines are growing in value as well as in volume. The average bottle price for a Colorado wine is now $16.68, up from $12.86 in 2005, and consumers who buy Colorado wines most frequently were most likely to buy wine in the $16-$25 price range.

Two other statistics stand out in the wealth of economic information generated from the impact study. While the Colorado wine industry may not be large by West Coast standards, the state’s wine consumers do like to drink wine. Wine-drinking residents of the state consume approximately 3.1 gallons per capita compared to the national figure of 2.5 gallons per capita. Even more important to the local wine industry, more than 5% of the money Colorado residents spend on wine is for wine made within the state.

According to Tony Wolf, professor of viticulture at Virginia Tech, who wrote about the importance of such statistics to the Virginia wine industry in his December 2013 Viticulture Notes, “We use the data to track and illustrate growth and development trends in the industry to potential new growers, the media and our employers. It’s unlikely, for example, that Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences would have recently employed an extension enologist (Molly Kelly), a research/teaching enologist (Amanda Stewart) or previously hired a full-time grape pathologist (Mizuho Nita) had the industry not demonstrated an ability to grow. Similarly, it’s unlikely Virginia Gov. McDonnell would have essentially doubled the funding of the Wine Promotion Fund, administered by the Virginia Wine Board, if hard data on the scale of the industry were not available.”

Doug Caskey, executive director of the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board, told Wines & Vines that the study had some other important uses. “Colorado is known for its beer,” Caskey noted, “and the economic impact study lets the public know we do have a wine industry here as well as beer. The Wine Board is a state agency, and it helps to justify our existence to the state legislature. And also it’s nice to see that all the hard work of Colorado’s vintners and growers is paying off.”

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