Louisville is hosting the state’s first annual commercial wine competition this month to rate and celebrate wineries around the state.
“We’ve gotten to a point in the industry where I think it’s really important to bring people in that aren’t all necessarily from Kentucky to really assess Kentucky wines and let us know about the quality,” says Tyler Madison, director of the grape and wine marketing program for the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.
The Kentucky wine industry is estimated to bring in nearly $15 million in annual revenue, according to the University of Kentucky, which has been commissioned to produce an economic impact statement on the industry that should be released later this year.
In 1990, Kentucky had no wineries. Now around 65 wineries exist, along with hundreds of acres of vineyards and the state produces nearly 150,000 cases of wine each year. UK has even added courses that cater to those interested in learning more about the industry.
Also this week, the department of agriculture announced a new free Smartphone app called Kentucky Wine Trails, which gives users winery specific information.
The Kentucky Commonwealth Commercial Wine Competition & Commissioner’s Cup—which will be held in Louisville on July 27th—will bring in national talent to assess wines, Madison says.
“A lot of people that don’t know about Kentucky wine and want to learn about wine, it’s hard for them to say, well, here’s Kentucky wine go find one and drink one. Whereas now you can say here’s a Kentucky wine that’s been awarded a Commissioner’s Cup medal,” he says.
Kentucky’s wine industry is overshadowed by its bourbon industry, which brings in hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for the state.
One way the state is trying to support the wineries is with the grape and wine marketing program, which will cover up to 50 percent of certain marketing costs like newspaper ads and billboards for wineries.
The idea is to market and bring attention to Kentucky wines, Madison says.
The increase in wineries over the last several years has meant less per winery funding during the biannual reimbursement period, he says. The first half of the year, the program capped its reimbursements at $1,250 per winery.
Madison says four more wineries have been grated licenses this year, which will bring the total number of operating wineries to around 80.