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Maryland Wine & Grape Advisory Committee Report

Maryland (State Appellation)

Maryland Wine & Grape Advisory Committee Report Released

The recommendations contained in this report seek to make Maryland a welcome and attractive state for investors to plant vineyards and open wineries.

by Kevin Atticks
February 18, 2005

It started in a meeting in Hagerstown last September. Senator Donald Munson was querying University of Maryland viticulturist Dr. Joe Fiola about the prospects for a vibrant wine industry in Washington County, Maryland. Fiola replied that the land is perfect for vineyards, and the tourism base is already there – but no one’s doing it.

Senator Munson wanted to know why, and quickly called Maryland Department of Agriculture’s Lewis Riley. He asked Secretary Riley to form a task force to investigate the Maryland wine industry, and learn how to promote its growth.

Riley quickly appointed the Maryland Wine and Grape Advisory Committee to identify strategies to facilitate the growth of Maryland’s commercial vineyards and wineries and to offer recommendations to strengthen and expand Maryland’s grape and wine economics and their markets. This report outlines a series of recommendations that – when implemented – will encourage and assist the continued expansion of Maryland’s wine industry as expressed by the growth in the number of vineyards, the acreage planted to wine grapes, the number of Maryland wineries, the gallons of wine produced in the State, the quality of that wine, and the economic benefit to the State.

There is compelling evidence that the Maryland wine industry lags behind the rest of the nation – and most notably its northern and southern neighbors (Pennsylvania and Virginia) – in both grape and wine production. Even when calculated on a per capita or per square mile basis, Pennsylvania and Virginia out-produce Maryland in grapes and wine.

The good news is that the Maryland wine industry is showing definite signs of growth. With the assistance of the State through investment in the industry, this growth can be not only sustained but also increased dramatically.

The recommendations contained in this report seek to make Maryland a welcome and attractive state for investors to plant vineyards and open wineries. They seek to modernize liquor laws related to wine making and marketing that were enacted in the thirties following the repeal of prohibition. They suggest strategies for state agencies to improve the image of Maryland wines and the location of Maryland wineries. They recommend to the Governor that he include modest increases in his budget to enable the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension to hire a full-time viticulturist, a plant pathologist, and an enologist. They offer concrete suggestions to the Maryland Grape Growers Association and the Maryland Wineries Association, the industry’s professional and trade organizations, to upgrade their services to both the industry and the public.

The experience of other states has shown that where states invest modestly in their wine industries, the return in the growth of that industry as measured in volume of wine grapes produced, gallons of wine produced, economic return to the states, and tax income has been substantial.

Senator Munson and Delegate Virginia Clagett have introduced legislation designed to implement some of the report’s recommendations.

To view the full report in PDF format click here or visit www.MarylandWine.org.


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