Prior to arriving to North Georgia, a wine lovers’ rendezvous just north of Atlanta, I spent a little time perusing the web in anticipation of my trip to wine country. Much to my surprise and dissatisfaction, there is no single site that covers the industry as a whole. Instead, visitors are left to choose between 3 poorly designed websites that attempt to represent the Georgia Wine Industry. The Georgia Wine Council, The Winegrowers Association of Georgia and finally Georgia Wine Country (in my opinion, the best of the 3) do their best impression of an all encompassing website for tourists and visitors alike. With little help from the state, wineries are left to fend for themselves and/or band together via trade associations to help spread the word.
Now numbering in the high 30s, the growth of the wine industry is nothing short of astounding. From the fruit and Muscadine wine grapes grown and produced in the south to the American, European and Hybrid grapes in the north, Georgia is producing a variety of wines to satisfy every palate and budget.
Three Sisters Vineyards and Winery owner and winemaker, Doug Paul, recently published a great piece on the Georgia Wine Industry, State of The Grape – A Year End Review of 2010 Wine Production in Georgia. Doug Paul, who I had the pleasure of meeting on my visit and the focus of an upcoming post, provides a recap of 2010 and a recommendation that sums up my thoughts exactly:
It is my thought and the thought of many of my colleagues that the State of Georgia and the citizens would benefit from the formation of a state managed “Georgia Wine Commission” charged with the task of promotion, marketing and educational research. To be successful and fair to all concerned, a Georgia Wine Commission must be completely nonpartisan, inclusive and not controlled by private business or any personality in the wine business. It should be state funded through a portion of all alcohol excise taxes collected on behalf of retailers, wholesalers and farm wineries. In Georgia, these taxes are currently collected and paid directly to the Georgia Department of Revenue. All excise taxes collected on alcohol in the state are placed in the “general fund.” As with successful neighboring states with wine regions, an annual budget should be established by the General Assembly to support an impartial Executive Director to manage promotion, marketing and oversee research grants.
Outside of the single, nonpartisan organization, I believe the state needs more vintage consistency and a grape variety the state can hang its hat on. Until the state realizes its own potential, I’m afraid the industry will continue to be saddled in silos trying to find their voice…