Colorado wine industry shows steady growth in production and demand

December 11, 2013

By Steve Raabe – The Denver Post

Colorado wine drinkers are purchasing more local wines and willingly spending more to support the homegrown industry.A report shows a big jump in Colorado wine sales last year and a record high in the market share of locally produced wines.The industry is still comparatively tiny — accounting for just 2 percent of all wine sales in Colorado by volume and 5.5 percent by dollars spent.But the growing numbers suggest a maturing sector that is focusing more on quality and building a market for local wine drinkers and tourists alike.The report, commissioned by the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board, shows that consumers in Colorado paid on average $16.68 per bottle for Colorado-made wine compared with an average of $6.14 for all other wines.

“We see this as an indication that Colorado wine drinkers consider our local wines as a special-occasion selection, perfect for their holiday feasts,” said Dawn Thilmany, an economics professor at Colorado State University and the report’s lead researcher.

Colorado winesSales of local wines jumped from $19.1 million in fiscal year 2011 to $28.2 million last year. Production in Colorado grew to 335,000 gallons, a 14 percent increase from the previous year. In addition to direct sales, wine is a significant contributor to Colorado’s tourism industry, especially in the Grand Junction area where many of the state’s wineries are located. CSU researchers concluded that wine tourism generates $103 million annually in direct and indirect economic activity. The wine industry statewide is valued at an estimated $144 million in sales, employment and secondary economic impacts.

“Our $144 million is very small, but it’s a key linchpin in the state’s agriculture industry,” said Doug Caskey, executive director of the Colorado wine board. Caskey said winemakers have made big strides in quality and consistency — areas that have been the subjects of criticism from some wine analysts. “Some (Colorado wines) are good and some are so-so,” said Sheila Carey, wine buyer at Denver’s Argonaut Wine & Liquor. “It isn’t a huge part of our business. I think that more people are becoming aware of Colorado wines, and the sales are up slightly.”

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