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.
Technorati tags: wine food & drink