Idaho wines are a big – and booming – business, according to new figures from the Idaho Wine Commission.
According to a study released on Dec. 17., the wine industry contributed $206.9 million in economic impact to the state through 2018, the most recent year for which information was available.
The study documents the explosive growth of Idaho’s wine businesses. In 1976, there was only one winery in Idaho. Now the state is home to 60. The number of Idaho wineries increased by nearly 58% over the last decade.
Idaho’s wine industry had direct revenues of $46 million in 2017, including $31.4 million from wineries. An additional $14.6 million was generated through mark-ups among retailers, restaurants and wholesalers.
The industry directly employed 520 workers in 2017, including 280 at wineries. Another 1,800 jobs were supported indirectly in sectors such as tourism, transportation, equipment sales and agricultural supplies.
“The grape growing and wine making industry provides a huge agriculture and economic benefit for Idaho,” said Moya Dolsby, executive director of the Idaho Wine Commission. “Our industry should be proud it has contributed to the development of new jobs, tourism spending and augmentation of Idaho’s economy.”
Idaho produced 2,800 tons of grapes and bottled 131,756 gallons of wine in 2018. Over 1,300 acres are currently planted as vineyards.
Wine sales in Idaho more than doubled in the state between 2011 and 2017. Sales of wines produced in the state increased 51% between 2013 and 2017, which was faster than overall wine sales by volume. Currently, Idaho wines account for 10.5% of all wine sold in the state.
Regardless of the industry’s growth, the state’s wine businesses face some significant obstacles, according to the study. Survey respondents reported that wineries are often unable to secure financing needed to expand. Idaho also lacks banks that specialize in winery and vineyard loans, unlike Washington, Oregon and California.
The study documented that Idaho lacks sufficient bottling capacity and storage for its wines. While the number of vineyard acres continues to increase, in-state grape production is still quite modest. This causes many Idaho wineries to source grapes from out-of-state growers, most often from Washington.
“The Idaho Wine Commission will use this study to evaluate how the industry is doing,” Dolsby added. “We will use it to replicate successes while also identifying opportunities for improvement and growth.”
The study identified opportunities which the wine commission intends to pursue to continue the growth of Idaho vineyards and wineries. These include ongoing efforts to increase brand awareness of Idaho wines. They also include the expansion of support organizations that can offer financing, wine-production infrastructure, and training to Idaho’s grape growers and winemakers.
The Idaho Wine Commission is a state agency that supports and promotes all of Idaho’s grape growers and winemakers. The economic impact study was authored by Community Attributes Inc., a market research firm based in Seattle. It was funded by a specialty crop grant awarded to the wine commission by the Idaho State Department of Agriculture. The study pulled information from a variety of sources including the U.S. Census Bureau, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Trade Bureau, the Idaho State Tax Commission, and wine industry stakeholders.