Tennessee Wine

In a state known for its world-famous whiskey, the post-Prohibition resurgence of winemaking is still relatively new, but it’s the fastest-growing Tennessee agricultural segment.

Fifty wineries have opened in every corner of Tennessee, up from 30 just a decade ago.

“I think we’ll see that number double in the next decade,” says Jonathan Ball, vice president of operations of Rocky Top Wineries, the largest cooperative of wineries in the state. “We have a lot of room to grow this business in Tennessee.”

State wineries crushed more than 1.5 million pounds of grapes in 2011, and Rocky Top Wineries crushed 850,000 pounds of that total. Ball notes that Rocky Top Wineries doesn’t grow a single grape, but rather buys from local farmers.

“We bought fruit from 38 different growers, which is what we typically do annually,” he explains. “We buy from local farmers, and that’s good for Tennessee agriculture.”

The average size of a Tennessee vineyard ranges from 10 acres to 15 acres, though larger vineyards exist, such as the 120-acre Reedy Creek in Bristol. Ninety-five percent of the grapes grown in Tennessee are made into wine.

“It’s a product that supports local farmers,” Ball says.

Tennessee Wine

Grape Expectations

More than 30 varieties of grapes are grown in Tennessee, including well-known wine grapes, such as Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, plus the state’s most popular grapes – Concord and Muscadine.

“We’re a Southern state, so we’re known for our sweet wines, which is not surprising since we have sweet tea with our lunch,” Ball says. “But we are starting to develop some excellent dry ones.”

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In fact, Tennessee vintners have produced some award-winning wines in recent years. Beachaven Vineyards and Winery in Clarksville took top honors for its Syrah at the 2011 Wines of the South competition hosted by the University of Tennessee. Other Tennessee winners in the field of wineries from 14 states included Sugarland, Stonehaus, Arrington, Old Millington, Mountain Valley, Reedy Creek, Century, Grinder’s, Beans Creek, Keg Springs, Amber Falls, Mountainview, Blue Slip, Hillside and Apple Barn.

Tennessee Wine

“Tennessee wines are wonderful,” says Tammy Algood, viticulture specialist for the Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA), which works to promote the state’s wine industry. “The quality of Tennessee wines can be seen in the numerous awards they win in regional, national and international competitions. There is a Tennessee wine for any type of wine lover, from dry to sweet to sparkling.”

One Tennessee wine has achieved statewide and multistate distribution. Stonehaus wines can be found at the winery and in liquor stores in Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga, Knoxville, Tri-Cities and all points in between. The wines are distributed to liquor stores across the country, as far north as Michigan and as far south as Alabama.

Tennessee Wine

Wine Wins in Agritourism

Stonehaus is among the wineries to create a wine-tasting experience to go along with the sale of the product. Offering tastings and tours, gifts and scenic settings, Tennessee wineries are the most successful agritourism industry in the state, according to a 2010 study compiled by TDA. Grapes are the state’s third largest fruit crop.

“Agritourism is a major factor in the growth we’ve seen so far and in the future of the state’s wine industry,” Ball says. “When you look at Sevier County with 10 million people coming through annually, it’s clear we need to attract more of those to our wineries and wine trails. We’re partnering with the agriculture department in promoting agritourism to help make that happen.”

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  1. I’m a farmer in Overton County. I have a northeastern slope that I think would be good for growing grapes. I’d like help in assessing this land’s potential for growing grapes and some advice on what varieties would seem most promising from a marketing perspective five years from now. Could you refer me to contacts that could help with these two requests?

  2. Jim, has anyone contacted you about your request for help??? If not, please e-mail me, I will give you contacts who can help you. I just saw this post by accident today.

  3. Hi Connie,

    Thanks for your help. We’ve emailed Jim with your contact info so he can get in touch.

    Jessy Yancey

  4. I am from McMinn County also needing the same advice as Jim. I have 30 acres on a slope, and looking to make a vineyard and orchard of it. Help needed thanks.

  5. Hi Sam,

    Check out these two PDF documents from the University of Tennessee extension service. They include growing tips, legal details and the contacts at the Tennessee Department of Agriculture that you would need, as well as other helpful information.
    So You Want to Grow Grapes in Tennessee: http://utextension.tennessee.edu/publications/Documents/PB1689.pdf
    Starting Your Own Wine Business: http://www.tn.gov/agriculture/marketing/Viticulture_pdfs/StartingYourOwnWineBusiness.pdf

    Additionally, you may want to contact the Department of Agriculture directly at http://www.tn.gov/agriculture. Hope this helps!

    Jessy Yancey
    Farm Flavor

  6. I would like to get in contact with someone regarding obtaining information on growing grapes for wineries etc. I own a farm north of Knoxville, and have a few vines that I started with to get a feel for growing muscadine grapes. I am looking to invest in growing commercially, but need some help in where to begin. If you can help I greatly appreciate any I can get.

    Thank you,
    Jeff England

  7. Hi Jeff,

    Thanks for your comment. For more information on growing grapes, we suggest you contact the Tennessee Department of Agriculture at (615) 837-5103. You can also contact the Tennessee Farm Winegrowers Alliance at (615) 837-5347. Hope this helps!

    Rachel Bertone
    Tennessee Ag Insider

  8. I would like to purchase the following grapes from a TN vineyard if available: zinfandel, merlot, cabernet sauvignon. I would appreciate any information you have about contacting the vineyards.

    Thank you,

  9. Hi Wayne,

    Thanks for your comment. We suggest contacting the Tennessee Department of Agriculture at 615-837-5103 or the Tennessee Farm Winegrowers Alliance at 615-837-5347 for more information on purchasing grapes. Hope this helps!

    Rachel Bertone
    Tennessee Ag Insider

  10. We were given a bottle of Davenport Red. And we LOVE it. We would like to know how to get more, we live in the northwest most corner of Missouri. Is there anyway you can send me a brochure or something? Can I order direct from you? We are trying to make time to come to Tennessee.

    Thank you


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