Economic Considerations in Starting a Vineyard

by Paul Read

In recent years I have often been asked the question, "Can I make money growing grapes?" My answer paraphrases a comment of one of my former teachers, "There's no money to be made in growing grapes...Just in selling them." There are many variables to be confronted in establishing a profitable vineyard. It is critical to do your homework!

  • Is there a market for your grapes?
  • Will they be sold to a winery or other processor?
  • Can you get a contract with the processor?
  • What cultivars ("varieties") will you grow (what one(s) does the processor want?)
  • What price will be paid? If not stated up front, how will the price be determined?
  • Do you have a suitable site? (See "Site Selection Checklist").
  • How Long can you wait to recover your investment costs? 7 years? 10 years? 15 years?

  • How can costs be reduced without sacrificing QUALITY?

Do Your Homework
  • Read books, trade and scientific journals.
  • Visit successful vineyards and wineries.
  • Attend workshops, seminars, classes.
  • Talk to and learn from other growers.
  • Develop a business plan.
  • A suitable site is already in place (owned or long-term lease). No land costs are included.
  • Necessary equipment is available.
  • Adapted cultivars will be planted.
  • All labor is paid at skilled laborer rates.
  • Trellis will be a standard 2-wire for bilateral cordon (added costs will be incurred for GDC or other systems).
  • Machinery costs are operating costs only
  • Plant spacing will be 8 feet apart in row, rows 10 feet apart (= 545 vines/A)
  • Standard treated wood posts and 12.5 gauge high tensile strength wire with appropriate hardware will be employed.
  • Grass cover crop between rows and herbicide treatment in the row.
  • No interest is included

Adapted from Costs of Establishing a WineGrape Vineyard by Bruce Bordelon, Purdue University. Figures are adjusted for inflation and location.

Year One Cost/Acre

Site preparation $ 166
Plants and planting 2,398
Trellis materials & Installation 1,670
Weed, disease and insect control 473
(includes mowing row middles)
Fertilizer, canopy management 1,010
and machinery operating costs

Total Year One $ 5,717


Year Two Cost/Acre

Pruning, replanting and canopy mgt $ 447
Weed, disease & insect control 339
Fertilizer and machinery operating costs 294

Total Year Two $ 1,808


Year Three Cost/Acre

Pruning and canopy management $ 542
Weed, disease & insect control 442
Fertilizer & machinery operating costs 347

Total Year Three $ 1,678



Additional Resources