Thursday, November 05, 2009

Has wine become like fastfood?

Has wine become a grape-based processed food product? Keith Wallace, founder of the Wine School of Philadelphia and contributor to The Daily Beast thinks so and explain why in his latest article.

“The bottle you'll enjoy with dinner tonight likely wasn't produced at a winery, or by a winemaker”, says Wallace. “One imagines a winemaker in his vineyards, inspecting bunches of grapes. Maybe his dogs are chasing rabbits between the rows of vines. At night, he pops open a bottle of his own creation to share with friends and family. It is a romantic ideal.”

In 2008, Americans consumed 658 million gallons of table wine, 80% of which, according to The Beverage Information Group, has been sold for less than $10. Most of these wines are made today by wine processing companies, such as Golden State Vintners, one of the largest suppliers of premium bulk wines, wine processing and storage services in the country. The company, which began as a small vineyard and winery in the 1930s, receives today the majority of its revenue from supplying well known labels with premium bulk wine. Gallo is one of the company's most important customers. Other customers include Sutter Home, Sebastiani, and Vincor.

What Wallace calls winery-less wines are not just found at the lower tier of the market. Today, many luxury wines come from wineries with no vineyard, no winemaking facilities and no tasting room. They are made in custom crush facilities. For example, the Oakville based Napa Wine Company has around 60 clients including Pahlmeyer, Crocker & Starr, and Volker Eisele, and works with 12 to 20 different winemakers. It produces one million cases of wine each year. The company facilities includes fermentation and barrel rooms, a bottling line, a wine testing laboratory, and a tasting room.

And things get weirder, says Wallace, when wines are made by actual wineries, from their own vineyards, by their own winemakers. but they hide behind a virtual label. When wineries has excess wine that they don't want to sell under their flagship brand, they bottle it under a second label that they sell for a fraction of the flagship brand's price.

If that whole wine business bothers you and you still want your wine made at a real winery, from a real vineyard and by a real winemaker, the trick is to read the fine print advises Wallace: look for the term “produced and bottled by” on the label, at least for the wines made in the US.

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Keith Wallace said...

Glad you liked the article!

Catherine Granger said...

You're welcome!

ConstanceC said...

I understand what both you and Keith are saying. I'm well aware that a lot of distributors do package private label wines that they sell under a dba without rights to promoting the vineyard, wine maker, etc. However, I am unsure as to how many areas of the world, besides CA/US this happens in. Cheaper import wines usually tote more value for the cheaper price and they still DO have a story, a winemaker, a vineyard, etc.
American's are becoming more educated about their wines and while there are many who buy based on label, varietal, etc alone, it is doubtful any of these "fast food" wines will go very far. Regulations on how many containers each can have, etc. exist which prevents true brand growth. Not to mention the fact that many wines are being sold FOR their story.

Roystance said...

hello Catherine, I am 21 years old. why is the 'Wincarnis' wine sweeter than 'Stanley'? A good wine should have what kind of taste? im confuse..