Coming soon to a store near you: wines from New Jersey! If the prospect of wines from New Jersey sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, consider the fact that the prospect of good wines from California was once considered a joke as well. Today, California wines are drunk and praised all over the world.
The same might happen with wines from New Jersey — and from South Jersey in particular. Recent legal changes in New Jersey laws are about to make it possible.
Growing Grapes, Growing Wineries
Starting May 1, restrictions were loosened on how wineries in the Garden State could market and sell their products — including the ability to directly ship wines to consumers. Even more important is that new licenses will be issued for new wineries. Many hope that this will spur the growth in wineries and thus in the number of different Jersey wines that will be available.
Currently, New Jersey is the fifth-largest producer of wine in the United States. That number sounds pretty good, but it's a distant fifth, not a close fifth. According to U.S. Treasury tax figures for 2008, California produced 90% of U.S. wine, New York 4%, Washington 3%, and New Jersey, with 6.3 million liters of wine, produced only one quarter of one percent.
So New Jersey still has quite a way to go...
Growing New Jersey Tourism
There are already more than 50 wineries in New Jersey. The number of new winery licenses won't lead to an explosion of wineries, but it should encourage some growth. The most likely places for new wineries will probably be in areas where other Jersey wineries are already established. Those are the areas which probably have the best weather and soil conditions for growing wine grapes.
This, in turn, should lead to increased tourism and travel for certain areas of New Jersey. Other winery regions around America benefit from people travelling there when they are marketed right and that's what people in New Jersey have in mind. A good wine area thus produces economic benefits on several levels: income from wine production, income from tourism, and income from other businesses which are created to benefit from the tourism.
New Jersey Wines
So which wine grapes do best in the climate and soil of New Jersey? Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Chambourcin, Concord and Pinot Grigio seem to be the best ones and those are the grapes that vineyards will be starting out with first. Some Jersey wineries are having trouble keeping up with the demand they already have for these wines.
Even though there are 50 wineries in New Jersey and even though they produce a lot of wine, many of the vineyards are still fairly young. Vines take some time to get established and produce the best grapes they are capable of, so even if you aren't impressed with wine from New Jersey right now, you should keep your mind open because it looks like the quality will only improve over time.