Wine lovers rejoice — more and more Virginia wine grapes are being raised every year. Virginia grape production increased by 1,400 tons or about 35 percent between 2001 and 2007, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service. Total grape tonnage in 2001 was 4,200, while last year it was 5,600.

“These production figures show what wine lovers and members of the industry already know — that Virginia’s wine industry is booming,” said Tony Banks, assistant director of commodities and marketing at the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “There’s been a 41 percent increase in acreage from 2001, when the industry really started getting a lot of public attention. That year 1,700 acres of wine grapes were planted. Last year we planted 2,790 acres of grapes.”

In 2007, NASS reported, 5,400 tons of Virginia grapes were utilized by the wine industry (200 tons were harvested but not used for wine). Producers harvested a crop with a value of $7.8 million, at an average price of $1,400 per ton, according to NASS.

Virginia wines continue to win national and international competitions. While last year’s vintage hasn’t been entered in many contests yet, the dry weather that hurt so many other crops helped concentrate the flavor and the sugars of the grapes.

Virginia has 130 wineries and is the nation’s fifth-largest producer. The new Virginia Wine Distribution Co., which began operation in late April, will help smaller wineries get their products to the public.

After a U.S. District Court invalidated Virginia laws allowing self-distribution by small wineries, most were reduced to selling only directly to the public on their property or at special events. The new company, created under the auspices of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, allows small wineries to use the VWDC to help them sell their products to restaurants, shops and wholesale buyers.