TN Wine

About Tennessee Wine
Little girl picking grapes on a Weakley County, Tenn. farm, circa 1940.

Little girl picking grapes on a Weakley County, Tenn. farm, circa 1940. Used with permission from the Tennessee State Library and Archives.

Did you know Tennessee is great place for growing grapes? Early settlers in the 1800s brought grapes to the Knoxville region, to plant on hillsides considered unsuitable for many other crops. In an 1874 agriculture survey, Tennessee listed 1,128 acres planted in grapes, producing 64,767 gallons of wine with a value of $90,000.

In 1919, however, the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution, commonly called Prohibition, all but destroyed the wine industry in the United States. Of the nearly 2,500 wineries in the U.S. prior to Prohibition, less than 100 survived afterward.

Vineyards were pulled up to plant tobacco, or grape varieties more suited for eating than making wine.

While a few winemakers kept the industry active with home vineyards and small lot private production allowed under the law, it was in 1973, when seven individuals interested in viticulture and oenology gathered around a kitchen table in Clarksville and organized the Tennessee Viticultural and Oenological Society (TVOS), that the Tennessee wine industry was reborn.  
Two of the individuals, Fay Wheeler and his friend Judge William O. Beach, led a small group in formulating a proposed law to encourage grape-growing and commercial winemaking in Tennessee. The law came to pass in 1977 as the Tennessee Wine and Grape Act, which permitted the establishment of wineries in Tennessee, even in “dry” counties. The efforts of Fay and Judge Beach enabled what has become a thriving industry for commercial vineyards and wineries in Tennessee.

Since then, a number of regulations have loosened, freeing the Tennessee grape and wine industry to grow. Today there are more than 70 wineries in the state, and grape production grew 56 percent between 2017 and 2012, making it the fastest growing segment of Tennessee agriculture.

The state now has six wine trails, three of them in the Nine Lakes Region of East Tennessee. They offer scenic drives, quaint towns and friendly staff at each stop.  Be sure to try award winning wines that are uniquely Tennessee… you know Merlot, Syrah, and Chardonnay, we want to introduce you to Chancellor, Chambourcin, Traminette, and Seyval.

At Nine Lakes Wine Festival, we promise you’ll find a Tennessee wine you love!