< Resources Commercial Vineyard Establishment in Maryland

1   Introduction
2   Site Selection
3   Winery Requirements
4   Economic Considerations
5   Chronology
6   Sources of Vines
7   Reference

Winery Requirements

Most of the Maryland wineries grow some or all of their own grapes. A few of them use exclusively their own production, but most purchase grapes from independent growers. The quantity of winery-produced grapes remains fairly constant at this point, so expansion of their wine producing capacity depends upon increased availability from independent growers. Most wineries would like to expand, and the next few years may see additional wineries opening for business.

Over 300 tons of grapes are processed annually by Maryland wineries, of which roughly 30% are purchased. Based on current availability, the wineries who purchase grapes anticipate purchasing the same amount each year for the foreseeable future, but most would buy more if the right varieties were available.

The following is a list of winegrape varieties currently being used by Maryland wineries, followed by the approximate amount of each processed annually by the wineries (purchased both in and out of state), and the amount by which the wineries would like to increase production with these varieties.

Current & Projected Annual Production of Maryland Grapes
Variety * Annual Production (tons)
Current Production 1999 Projected Production
Cabernet Sauvignon (V) 68 104
Vidal (H) 64 96
Seyval (H) 55 92
Chardonnay (V) 45 66
Riesling (V) 23 34
Chambourcin (H) 14 34
Chancellor (H) 14 28
Merlot (V) 10 23
Cabernet Franc (V) 8 14
Foch (V) 7 14
Other 15 18
* (V) = Vinifera        (H) = Hybrid

While demand for certain varieties may vary, it seems safe to predict that any significant deviation from the established pattern is unlikely in the forseeable future. Recently there has been a modest increase in demand for certain hybrids, such as Chambourcin and Seyval, perhaps to fill the market for lower-priced wines. Vinifera grapes bring the highest prices, but the resulting wines are more costly and therefore face stiffer competition on the market.

In general, wineries prefer purchases of a ton or more of any particular variety, harvested and delivered in standard harvesting lugs (capacity approx. 30 lbs. ea). Fruit is expected to be of good quality, free from disease. Most wineries are able to process the grapes upon arrival so that lugs may be returned immediately. Prices will vary, depending upon variety -- vinifera varieties currently bring $1200 - $1500 per ton, hybrids $500 - $700 per ton. Smaller quantities sold to amateur wine-makers are generally priced somewhat higher, and will vary depending on whether the fruit is sold already picked, pick-your-own, or already crushed. Harvest dates for this category are more flexible, and the buyer is usually expected to take delivery at the vineyard.

Presently, written contracts with wineries are not common. Wineries prefer to deal with growers on a long-term basis, with conditions agreed on at the outset.

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