Local winery owners are in support of a bill moving through the Kentucky Legislature to allow them to distill wine waste products to create brandy and other so called fortified wines.
The Kentucky House approved the bill this week.
Owner of Paducah’s Purple Toad Winery Allen Dossey said the bill will help independent winemakers and vineyards across the state improve their bottom lines.
He said winemakers usually throw away up to 15 gallons of grapes, stems and seeds when making a 5-gallon tank of wine because they cannot legally distil it into a product.
“We think it’s a big step forward because it lets a lot of the wineries that have damaged or less than pristine fruit or wine distil it and add it to fortified wine," said Dossey.
"Many times the vineyards in Kentucky, because of erratic weather conditions, the grapes are not the highest quality,” said Kentucky Winery Association Treasurer Eddie O'Daniel. “Up to now, they've had to just waste the fruit."
The bill allows fortified wine to only be sold at wineries. Fortified wine is a wine to which a distilled spirit, such as brandy, is added.
O'Daniel said the end product would not be sold in stores.
"The brandy that we make is not gonna be offered as a standalone product at retailers or distributors,” he said. “We'll have to mix it in with other wines and we'll only sell it at our wineries, at the retail premises."
Dossey says he’s seen incredible growth in Kentucky’s wine industry over the last twenty years with 72 licensed wineries across the state.
"The tourism is a major aspect of it," said Dossey. "Essentially for every dollar a winery brings in, tourism brings in anywhere from $3 to $7 to the community with gas, lodging, food, shopping and all the other stuff. And another part is the farming because you're allowing the farmers to transition from tobacco to grapes, and you can pretty much grow and get the same return as tobacco."
The bill now moves to the Senate.