In the process of researching the current trend of aging in barrels used for spirits, I came across, what I thought, was a good point. This person wrote that aging in former spirit barrels was a clever way to mask faults in a wine. And you get to charge the customer a premium for the privilege. It got me thinking: How, in fact, does the wine industry monetize its mistakes? Are there brokers who will buy a winery's screwed up batch and release it to less discerning markets? Can you distill it into something useful or more valuable? Or does every batch of wine just always turn out perfect, somehow? ;->
I'm WSET Level 3 Certified, but I've never worked in the industry. So while I have an academic understanding of the process, I've never made, bought, or sold wine professionally. And this seems like a subject you'd learn about on the job.
Thanks in advance!richard
I completely thought this was going to be a question about people...
oops, sorry. I guess that headline is ambiguous.
that would be a fun thread
In my experience, a winery will sell flawed juice to a large producer (think Gallo, for instance) who will then alter the hell out of it. Distilled into brandy is one option. Heavily filtered and blended with other lots to make cheap bulk wine is another. I'm sure there are more that I'm unaware of.
Is "flawed juice" the proper industry term, rather than my more sophomoric description?
Not really. Wine production is generally a pretty informal place, you can say whatever you want so long as you get the point across.
So did I! I was actually mulling answers over before I read the question.
Me too, and I thought, well, they often become underemployed writers in 3rd tier cities, but it's kind of mean to call me out like that.
A very nice farm in southern Indiana where they can make fruit wine and browse Instagram.
In my experience it depends on the price level of the wine. If it is Napa Cabernet and the grower has huge overhead, they will generally try to "fix" the wine before putting it on the bulk market. There are a few companies that specialize in "fixing" wines. One is Wine Secrets www.winesecrets.com . They can fix stuck fermentations, pull unwanted flavors out of a wine, get TA below legal limits, adjust alcohol/color/faulty aromatic etc. While the winery may not release the wine under their own label there are plenty of negociants that will buy the wine for a little discount and happily bottle it and market it at the lower price point. For bigger bulk wine at lower price points the big houses have all the tools in house to make the wines taste "even and consumer friendly". Not the perfect picture of terroir but a reality in the big winery game.
As a business, you will always look for a way to make a "mistake" wine saleable, and at the highest price. This can involve "fixing" the wine as described, to blend out under your primary label, or perhaps to sell in bulk, which will mean less revenue. There are multiple brokers who sell bulk wine, and many wineries use this avenue to monetize wines that don't fit their programs, many wineries fill out their blends by purchasing bulk wines, and there are some wineries that only bottle wines purchased on the bulk market, though that approach is somewhat dependant on a flush bulk market.
But probably a more interesting avenue of "fixing" a problem wine is a novel marketing approach that expands the potential accepted taste of wine. Maybe one of the most famous examples being the creation story of Sutter Home White Zinfandel. After a couple of vintages of making a dry rose after a saignée of a red Zin ferment, there was a problem with the fermentation and the rose of Zin stuck at about 2% residual sugar. Suffice to say that this wine became a bit of a hit for Sutter Home, and required a bit of an increase in production as an off-dry wine...
Perhaps the same will occur with smoke-affected wines from 2017? This was actually a question of a guest of mine the other night, and I thought it was genius on her part...
Like others have already covered - most companies will try to "fix" a wine, one way or another. Solutions from that point are
If the wine is a Single Vineyard that commends a premium price wise 2&3 typically rarely happen. Also, if the wine isn't Cab or Pinot or potentially Chard, it is easier to do 2&3.
Source: worked at a Custom Crush facility and got to see the numbers for wines from 2-3$ to 15-25$/bottle.
Don't do it, it will ruin you!
The PLCB which is one of the largest wine buyers (state of PA) often buys some and markets it as a special cuvée from x winery nobody ever heard of....
A lot of people just call it "Natural wine" Of course that underscores all the really quality Natural wines out there, but...