Virginia’s Hard Cider Industry

Virginia’s wine industry has grown dramatically over the past decade, and there are now about 200 vineyards in the state, but another industry hopes to nip at the heels of wine production.

With a $30,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Nelson County, Virginia set out to study the market for hard cider.  Tommy Bruguere was especially interested.  He and his brother have about 25,000 apple trees on 100 acres of land. “This is a land grant farm since 1752, and we can document we’ve had apples on the farm since around 1832.  My brother and I here are seventh generation,” says Bruguere.

Dickie Brothers’ orchard already sells winesaps and Albemarle Pippins to a couple neighboring cideries, and Bruguere says they may add some new varieties.   But they’ll have to get an early start if, in fact, the cider market is going to grow. “We can get an apple in three years, but it’s closer to five before they’re into good production.  An apple tree is a long-term investment,” he says.

So Nelson County surveyed Virginia growers, and 16 of them met earlier this month to discuss their findings with a Professor of Horticulture at Virginia Tech.  This fall, the county will issue a feasibility study expected to show that demand is strong enough to support three times as many cideries in Nelson and Albemarle counties over the next ten years.

–Sandy Hausman

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