High Altitude Wines: Production And Demand Shows Steady Growth In Colorado

Let us celebrate the occasion with wine and sweet words. –Plautus

Colorado has never really stood as a wine connoisseur’s paradise, however in recent years Colorado locals have been turning more towards the high-altitude, home-grown vino than those imported in. Colorado wine drinkers are now buying more local wine and spending more to support their homegrown industry. Compared to last year, wine production in Colorado grew by 14% while sales jumped from $19 million to $28 million.

It is believed that this is due to the wine market in Colorado maturing, where businesses have long been focusing on higher quality and more unique wines while working hard to build up a demand for local wine in the state. Overall this has not been terribly difficult as “anything” homegrown in Colorado is more appreciated by locals than products from outside the state. There is a very real sense of community and duty amongst Coloradoans which drives them to purchase locally. Whether that be foods, clothing, supplies, alcohol, or anything else. This, in part, contributes greatly to the success of the Wine industry in the state.

The Colorado Wine Industry

Again, Colorado has never been known for producing the “best” wine. However Coloradoans are known for doing the best with what they have, and as such, the wine in the state has been generally improving in quality over time. This is evident, at least to Colorado consumers, as sales last year were an all-time high. Overall the Wine industry is still relatively small and accounts for only 2% of total wine sales in Colorado.

The average cost of Colorado wine has been around $17 per bottle. The average cost for all other non-Colorado made bottles of wine is around $6. The ability to charge nearly three times the average cost for a bottle of Colorado wine is indicative that the wine is actually considered to be valuable. Generally, Colorado wine drinkers consider Colorado wine to be a rarity or special occasion wine. This makes sense as not only is the cost greater, but there is far less Colorado wine in the state than there are others.

Beyond direct sales of Colorado wine, the wine industry has begun to become a large contributor to Colorado’s overall tourism industry. High altitude wine tours, especially around Grand Junction where many of the state’s wineries are located, have begun to become popular. Compared to Napa Valley, or any vineyard in France or Italy, a Colorado wine tour may seem like a novelty vacation trip.

However, novelties wear off in time, and wine driven tourism in Colorado has been growing steadily along with sales. Colorado wine tourism generates over $100 million annually in direct and indirect economic sales. Overall it is estimated that the wine industry in Colorado is worth around $144 million which is relatively small, but does contribute greatly to the state’s overall agricultural industry.

To take a 20 year look at how far Colorado wine has come, let’s simply consider a few things. For starters in 1993, roughly 30,000 gallons of Colorado wine was produced and Colorado wine producers owned an estimated .5% of the total market share in the state. Compare this to 2013 when nearly 335,000 gallons of wine was produced, and Colorado wine producers owned roughly 5.5% of the total market share. So over a 20 year period, wine production grew by 1,016% and at an average rate of 50% annually. Though, the greatest increases in production occurred between 2000-2010 while the greatest increases in total market shared gained was between 2005-2013. So as is for most industries, there are better years than others, but overall, the Colorado Wine industry is doing, well… rather stellar.

What the Future May Hold For the Colorado Wine Industry

Well if we attempt to make assumptions based on its history, the Colorado Wine industry will most likely continue to rise at a constant and steady pace for production, sales, and market share. Of course there is a point where it will begin to slow down, but that doesn’t appear to be any time soon. As Colorado wines become more refined, have higher quality and greater consistency, Wine producers in the state will receive greater attention not only locally, but nationally, and internationally.

The biggest issue the industry faces is simply that most people are unaware that Colorado produces wine. This is even the case for Colorado locals, as often they are surprised to hear of all the vineyards the state has. There is no doubt that Colorado wine is unique, and as time passes; more people will undoubtedly realize this as well. But if you ever come across a bottle yourself, give it a try, there is little doubt you will be pleasantly surprised.

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The author of this piece is Damien S. Wilhelmi. If you enjoyed this article you can follow me on Twitter @CustParadigm. When I’m not writing about wine production, I can generally be found perusing the internet for the best wine deals online, as you never know exactly what you’ll come across.

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