A study carried out by MKF Research in St. Helena, California has estimated that the New York wine industry contributes some US$3.3 billion to the state's economy.

But while the total economic impact was put at US$3.34bn, MKF Research managing director, Barbara Insel, said that the figure should be regarded as "conservative" because of the difficulty in gathering data on property taxes and on "allied industries".

The preliminary analysis, to be finalised in October, found that wineries, grape producers and related industries provided at least 23,250 jobs and a payroll of US$786m in in 2004. The state produces around 200m bottles of wine a year, with total sales in excess of US$1 billion, making New York the third-largest wine producer in the US behind California and Washington.

The prime catalyst for the growth in the state's wine industry in the last 30 years was a change in state law in 1976 allowing wineries to sell directly to visitors. The total number of wineries grew from 19 in 1975 to 125 in the late 1990s.

Today, New York boasts 212 wineries with vines covering 31,000 acres, and the New York Wine & Grape Foundation believes the state could have as many as 300 wineries by 2008.