Grapes may be the fastest-expanding commodity in the state, with acres commercial production almost doubling in 4 years, from 500 bearing acres in 1999 to 900 in 2003 (NCDA), and the number of wineries has increased from 20 in 2001 to 34 in 2004. This expansion is targeted to the tourist industry and reflects in part increased public awareness of the health benefits of wine as a source of dietary antioxidants. New producers are often former or transitioning tobacco growers searching for alternative high-value crops that can be grown on tobacco soils. Grapes grown in the Mountains and western Piedmont are primarily bunch types, mainly vinifera (Vitis vinifera). In the eastern Piedmont and Coastal Plain, muscadines predominate (Vitis rotundifolia). The majority of both bunch and muscadine fruit is used for wine.
Pierce's Disease, caused by the xylem-limited bacterium Xylella fastidiosa, is the major disease threat to bunch grapes in the state, and prevents commercial bunch grape production in the Coastal Plain. Both bunch and muscadine grapes are subject to fungal pathogens that cause stem, leaf and fruit diseases.