Saturday, August 8, 2020

Drinking Local Is A Delicious Way To Help The Environment And Boost Small Business

Drinking Local shows good tasteShop local? Sure. But what about drinking local in NC?

By Dave Nershi, CSW


When you think of supporting local business, your mind probably goes to stopping by a local shop on Main Street instead of a big box store. Don’t limit yourself to your shopping cart. Drinking local also makes more sense than ever. Supporting your local winery boosts the local economy and supports local agriculture.

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“Not only are there environmental benefits of supporting all local farmers — orchards, vegetable farms, meat and grape growers — but, ‘buying local’, keeps money in the local economy,” said Frank Morgan, publisher of the popular Drink What You Like wine blog. “About 68 cents of every dollar spent on ‘local’ products stays in the local economy.”

Wine Isn’t Just From California

Wine is now produced in all 50 US states and the number of wineries has grown by nearly 50 percent since 2009. That’s something you may have missed if you only read the mainstream wine media.

Good times at Shadow Springs VineyardThere is no rule that says all wine has to come from California. In Burgundy they drink French wine made in Burgundy. In North Carolina we should drink North Carolina wine.

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By the dawn of the 20th century, North Carolina was the leading wine producing region in the nation. Prohibition caused the local wine industry to come to a screeching halt, but today North Carolina has more than 525 vineyards and 185 wineries in scenic landscapes from the mountains to the coast. The economic impact from North Carolina wine and wine grapes is nearly $2 billion. Wine from the Old North State is clearly on the rise.

Time Has Come For NC Wine

“North Carolina’s time has come,” said Diana Jones, co-owner of Jones Von Drehle Vineyards and Winery in Yadkin Valley. “As a state we produce a prism of products based on fermentation of our locally produced farm goodness. Wine (from vinifera, hybrid and muscadine grapes), beer (yep, barley and hops are grown in NC), spirits, ciders, and mead (honey). Let’s not forget the NC goodness that goes with the above: breads and cheese. All from right here. Look local, buy local, eat local and you support your neighbors; they in turn will support you.”

Local wineries create jobs and generate tax revenue for a vibrant local economy. Hotels, restaurants, tour companies and local shops all benefit when you patronize your local winery. Purchasing North Carolina wine helps sustain local jobs and when those employees are off the clock, they’ll be spending their paycheck in the local community. That’s quite a different story compared to buying a bottle of California wine in a supermarket.

Jones points out that there are environmental benefits as well. “Supporting local business such as a farm winery not only lets you enjoy the hands-on goodness of real farm to table but saves fuel burned to transport wine to us from afar, keeps tax dollars in our state and local treasuries, and preserves jobs for the thousands of workers that grow, produce and deliver to your door, favorite restaurant or neighborhood store,” she said.Tasting Room at Jones Von Drehle

Drink Wine Where It Was Grown

Mass produced wine that must be transported across the country before it gets to you is just plain wasteful. Since local wineries are growing their own grapes or sourcing locally and distributing locally, they have a much smaller carbon footprint. It’s also much cheaper – and sustainable -- to enjoy a North Carolina wine tour than it is to fly to France or Italy to visit wineries and vineyards.

North Carolina has a growing reputation as a hotbed for craft beer, but Max Lloyd, winemaker at Grove Winery, points out that regional wine is even more local. "Wine is much more of an agricultural product than beer. At a brewery, the hops and grains are almost always grown somewhere else,” said Lloyd. “Even the water is brought into the brewery with a pipe. At a farm winery, nearly 100% of the ingredients were grown on onsite."

When you visit a North Carolina winery, you not only enjoy an intimate experience where you might meet the owner or winemaker, but you benefit from prices that avoid the middleman. "There's nothing I enjoy more than going to a farm winery, grabbing a glass or bottle of wine and going outside and drinking the wine on the same farm where it was grown,” said Lloyd. “Throw in a nice locally grown cheese and you have the perfect afternoon."

NC Wine Guys

Drinking Local Is Important

“We think drinking local is just as important as eating local,” said Matt Kemberling, who along with Joe Brock are the NC Wine Guys, who champion NC wines, mead and cider through their video series, blog and social media efforts. “When you’re eating at a farm to table restaurant, why not also have local wine to make a complete offering?”

“When you drink local, you’re doing many things all at once,” adds Brock. “You’re supporting a small business and keeping your tax dollars in the state. You’re encouraging a local winemaker in their passion. And you’re showing that the local industry is important to you.”

Piccione Vineyards RosatoOften local wines are disregarded because people expect it to taste like something else. But the soil in every region is a bit different, which means the grapes it produces will also be different. You shouldn’t expect it to taste like California. You also have the chance to taste non-traditional grapes. For example, the very first grape cultivated in the US was grown in North Carolina. It is scuppernong, a type of Muscadine grape.

Matching Grapes To The Soil

In North Carolina, you will find a wide variety of wine grapes ranging from the well-known international varieties such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot, but also some less familiar, such as Chambourcin, Seyval Blanc, and Villard Noir. Don’t forget about the Muscadines, North Carolina’s native grapes. Muscadine wines are rich, full-flavored, and very fruity. State winegrowers plant just the right grape variety suitable for the soil – and they pair beautifully with meals sourced from local farms and ranches.

Interest in North Carolina wines is climbing, and the public is showing more interest in wines that come from the “other 47” states (other than California, Washington, and Oregon). Drink Local Wine Week is celebrated nationally the second full week in October.

It truly is a cause for celebration. Drinking local in North Carolina means what’s in your bottle has been created with local ingredients and showcases the unique flavors of our state. There is no end to the reasons to drink local – but the best one is the delicious wine right in your glass.

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