The impacts of weather on Virginia's wine industry
ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- Wine plays a big role in Virginia’s economy.
In fact, the wine industry contributes more than $1.3 billion annually to the Commonwealth.
Virginia is a popular place for wineries and vineyards thanks to the land and weather. Virginia's climate is very important.
The Commonwealth is in a humid subtropical climate, which means that it can get hot and humid in the summers and cool to mild in the winter. That seems to be a good thing.
"And that is what grapes want," said Henry Chiles, the vineyard manager at Chiswell Farm and Vineyard. "They don't want too cold in the winter and they don’t want too hot in the summer and Virginia is a nice middle spot for grapes."
Virginia has a different climate compared to California, but Matthieu Finot from Kings Family Vineyards says it is similar to somewhere else in the world.
"Our stylistic of wine is quite unique, it's truly Virginia, but if you would have to think of it, we are the Old World of the New World," he said. "We are much, much closer to Europe than we are from California."
When it comes to the challenges of growing grapes, it all depends on what happens in the fall and spring.
"We really want a really consistent transition from those cold temperatures, from the winter to warmer in the spring and summer," said Chiles. "What we don’t like is what we typically see here in Virginia."
"So the fall in Virginia can be very different every year. We can expect everything," said Finot. "It can be very sunny and very dry and sometimes you can get a hurricane."
When it comes to the fall and spring here, the region tends to have more weather systems.
More rain in the fall means that the grapes will absorb the water and dilute their sugars, making them less sweet. That is the biggest challenge area vineyards say they face from the threat of climate change.
"So in terms of climate change, our biggest threat is the risk of more extreme weather," Chiles said. "So we see more harder storms, more hail storms, more hurricanes, these are the type of things that the grapes cannot tolerate."
Virginia's winemakers are also seeing the buds of the grapes bloom earlier due to warmer weather, but occasionally, temperatures can fall near or below freezing in mid-spring, like this past April.
Still, at the end of the day, these people are farmers and can adapt to the ever-changing weather.
"What is important to understand is what we do is farming. We are farmers. We are very dependent on the weather," said Finot. "The most important part is the grapes, is the clusters, is the berries. That is what makes the wine. We got a lot of techniques to do the wine but at the end of the day, the wine is made here on our soil."