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New law from the little old winemaker Anne Arundel County

The wine culture has taken a solid hold in the U.S. over the past 10 or 15 years, and the increased popularity has changed the industry. As consumers have learned more about grapes and fermentation, they have become more adventurous, more willing to experiment with different kinds of wine and different pairings of wine and food. This is not your mother's wine and cheese party anymore.

That spirit of adventure has, for many, turned into an adventure in spirits. Where other industries would respond to more demand by stepping up production at large facilities, the wine industry has stepped up production one local winery at a time. Maryland, for example, boasted 75 wineries in 2001; by 2010, the number had more than doubled.

Anne Arundel County construction code only caught up with the paradigm shift last week when the county council unanimously approved a new law that recognizes wineries as agricultural structures. Until the law goes into effect in early October, wineries will be classified as they always have been: as industrial buildings.

The law change will have an immediate impact on wineries in the county: They will no longer face the regulatory headaches and expense of obtaining a building permit for each new structure. To qualify for the exemption, the wineries must grow 75 percent or more of their grapes on the premises, and the buildings cannot be intended for public use.

Other counties have also embraced wineries as farming operations, as has the state of Maryland. And the move is almost universally praised as a way to encourage more aspiring vintners to take the plunge, so to speak. At the moment, only 3 percent of the wine sold in the state is produced in the state. With the change to the construction code, the number should climb.

The wine industry paused for a breath during the recession. From 2007 to 2008, sales of Maryland-produced wine rose just 2.9 percent. The industry has been resilient, though: From 2010 to 2011 -- before the code change -- Maryland's wineries saw an 11.6 percent increase in sales.

Source: Capital Gazette, "Anne Arundel Council tweaks permitting rules for wineries," Allison Bourg, Aug. 21, 2012

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1 Comment

Great article. The recession slowed down a lot of industries even the wine and spirit industry. Some wine fanatics are daily drinkers with mean at night and then some are occasional wine drinkers. I believe more people are becoming knowledgeable on the process of making wine.

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