A “perfect storm” of high demand and increased production carried the Oregon wine industry to significant economic growth in 2017, according to an annual study by the University of Oregon Institute for Policy Research and Engagement.
The latest Oregon Vineyard and Winery Report shows the state added 92 new vineyards and 44 new wineries in 2017, while expanding planted acres from 30,435 to 33, 631 — a 10.5 percent jump.
Overall production also rose from 79,282 tons of wine grapes valued at $167.8 million in 2016, to 91,343 tons at $191.9 million in 2017. Willamette Valley Pinot noir remains the leading variety, accounting for 58 percent of acreage and 59 percent of production.
Most new wineries, however, came out of Eastern Oregon and “at-large” wine growing regions. Eastern Oregon — home of the state’s newest American Viticultural Area, The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater, established in 2015 — saw 18 new wineries open in 2017, while the Rogue Valley in Southern Oregon saw 13.
Total sales grew to more than $550 million in 2017, up nearly 4 percent over 2016. Though in-state sales saw a slight decrease from 593,192 cases to 579,155 cases, domestic sales outside of Oregon rose from 1.8 million cases to more than 2 million cases, and international sales exploded from 65,515 cases to 94,351 cases, bringing exports back to levels last seen in 2014.
The top export destination by a wide margin is Canada, which brought in 46,692 cases of Oregon wine, or nearly half of all Oregon wine exports. Japanese consumers bought 26 percent more Oregon wine than they did in 2016, and the United Kingdom bought 31 percent more Oregon wine.
Tom Danowski, executive director of the Oregon Wine Board, said the data shows Oregon is well positioned to compete in a fiercely competitive global wine market.
“We continue to see the marketplace recognizing quality and Oregon delivering it more consistently across more grape varieties and growing regions than ever,” Danowski said in a statement.
The majority of Oregon wine grapes continue to come from the North Willamette Valley, a region that specializes in Pinot noir, though production did increase markedly for Chardonnay, which gained nearly 1,500 tons, and Syrah, which gained roughly 1,250 tons.
Sally Murdoch, a spokeswoman for the wine board, said Oregon winemakers have garnered a reputation for quality.
“People associate Oregon wine with consistently high quality, and they are showing us with their purchases they’re willing to pay for it,” Murdoch said. “Thanks to the hard work our winemakers do in hosting tastings and landing on wine lists all over the world, we have better exposure, and the more people who taste Oregon wine, the more fans we make.”
With the increase in planted acres, Murdoch said the future continues to look bright.
“While wine is a competitive market, we now have a perfect storm of high and increasing demand for Oregon wines met with more wine grapes being grown and more wine produced,” she said.