Commercial Wine Making
Hello and Welcome to our course on Commercial Wine Making. In this video we will cover some of the general aspects of the business and about the types of wine itself. Yes, there are different types of wine. We will establish a base understanding of our view point on wines and why we are producing the type of wine that we do.
This training or course is designed to provide you with many of the considerations and thoughts that I wish I had when starting a commercial winery. It will cover many of the regulations, and side effects of owning a winery. This lack of information has cost me thousands of dollars in building and working with my own learning curve. This learning curve is something I hope to save you from.
Owning your own winery can be fun and rewarding, but it can also be a money pit. You must use some caution and have some understanding of why you are doing things a particular way; while creating your own winery.
What is a winery vs. a vineyard?
A correct, but generalized definition is that; a winery is a business that ferments sugar-based liquids into alcohol-based wine. This wine is the end result most people call a winery and a vineyard. But they are not the same.
A vineyard is a place that grows grapes.
Even though many wineries have their own vineyards they are still separate and distinct activities.
A winery may produce any number of types of wine. Here is a short list of those types.
- Grape wine is the most common.
- Honey wine is the oldest.
- Fruit wines are often made at home by grandparents. I only know of one winery that makes a decent fruit wine.
- Wines for vinegar are also a growing market segment.
Many wineries don’t have any vineyards at all. As a matter of fact, slightly more than half of the wineries in the US don’t have their own vineyards. They buy their grapes or honey from somewhere else. And many vineyards sell all of their grapes to someone else’s winery. Both types of businesses are dependent on each other, but they require very different skill sets to make successful.
Wineries are much more biology and process driven. Wineries are more about marketing, cash flows, and market share.
Vineyards are a type of farm with a specific product, generally grapes, and often are under contract to produce their grapes for a specific winery. Obviously, the better the grapes, the better the price. Vineyards usually have less than five customers a year, with only one crop per year.
We will not discuss vineyards and how to set up a vineyard since this is a very different type of business and I know very little about how to farm.
What influences the final flavor of the wine?
Grape wines are influenced by all different types of conditions; varietal of the grapes, soil (or area where the grapes come from), weather, age of the vines. All of these base influences become part of a single crop of the grapes. The most obvious of the these is the varietal of the grapes, which is a fancy way of saying the kind of grapes that are grown. The wine is generally marketed as the varietal of grape, such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir. However, European wines are more region based, such as Bordeaux or Champaign. There is a lot of good material on the internet if you want to research your particular favorite grape wine. The reason each grape wine has a year associated with it is that grape wines only get one shot a year to get it right. Grape wine first showed up about 5,000 years ago in Southern Europe and became a cash crop for the large landowner families.
We produce a set of award-winning honey wines. We chose Honey Wine because of the history and the fact that we were not bound to a specific year for production, we could focus our efforts on improving the quality of the wine rather than over coming the challenges of a specific year. We also chose Honey Wine because of the environmental impact that it has. Honey wine takes about 1,500 times less resources than grape wine to produce. Making it better for the planet. Yes, let me repeat that, honey wine uses one thousand five hundred times less resources than grape wine. Plus, 68% of all the food on your table is dependent on bees, not grapes. Honey does not require fertilizers and is considered Kosher. Making Honey Wine better for you.
We are often asked isn’t honey wine the same as Mead? Let’s address this question up front. They have the same roots and for most of history, they were the same thing. But the US Federal government had to step in and help the grape wine industry with a definition. Mead is now legally defined as any wine or wine like product that contains any honey. The difference is, that to be called a Honey Wine all of the fermentable sugar must come from honey, not grapes, just honey.
Actually, all forms of alcohol have their origin in honey wine. Honey wine dates back to the dawn of mankind, where it was called Ambrosia, or food of the Gods. The reason is that is the original wine is that it will form itself naturally and is sold in some markets today as Tej. There is a tree that grows with a hollow trunk in North Africa, this makes the tree an ideal place for bees to place their hive. The bees build up a supply of honey, the rainy season comes and washes some of the honey down into the trunk of the tree; and there are natural yeasts in the air, to provide the fermentation. The oldest known bottle of honey wine is about 9,200 years old. It was found in Northern China. Here is a picture of the actual bottle.
Much the same as there are several varietals of grapes, there are 144 registered types of mono-floral honeys, that are recognized by the National Honey Association. They range from Lotus, which is clear like water, to Buckwheat, which looks like thick coffee. But bees are opportunistic in nature and will collect from the closest flower to the hive. Therefore, any hive not placed in the center of a specific flower, produces a natural or wildflower honey and every gallon is different, in color and flavor. The more common types of mono-floral honey are Clover, Blackberry, and Orange Blossom.
Several years ago, the bee hives were hit with a parasite, that caused the death of the entire hive. A specific pesticide was found to be effective against the parasite, with little other damage. However, this pesticide was expensive and most of the Chinese chose to use something else, which happened to be harmful to people as well. Therefore, Chinese honey was banned from the US. The Chinese pesticide can also appear in the wine, so the True Source Certification is important.
I know of only one very good fruit wine. It is made in very limited quantities by a small winery North of Dallas, TX. It is made from Hibiscus flowers. They make the flowers into a tea, add lots of white cane sugar before the fermentation and then produce the wine. It is a sweet wine, made that way to cover many of the other problems with their process. Because the product is not distilled it is still considered a wine. Considering the way this wine is made, any sugar source can be used to make wine. Sugars from rice are used to make Sake, and apple wine is popular. We have even considered making a watermelon wine, to support the watermelon industry where we used to live.
Sweet and Dry Wines
The dryness of a wine comes from the amount of sugar left in the wine at bottling. It can also be assumed by the sense of smell by some people as well. We produce a Brut Dry wine, which means all of the sugar has been converted to alcohol. There is no sweetness left in the wine. However, because some people cannot separate the smell of honey from the sweetness of raw honey, our dry wine is too sweet for some people. The other part of most dry grape wines is the bite or bitter flavor, that flavor can be covered up using sweetness. So, some people are looking for the bitterness to evaluate the dryness of a wine. The best dry wines have no bite or bitterness in them.
Reds, Whites, and Amber
The color of the wine is greatly influenced by how long the skins remain with the other juices. The skins also include the tannins, which of course provides a bolder wine. Normally red wines have the skins with the juice until the completion of the fermentation process. White wines have the skins removed at the time they are crushed, so that none of the skin color gets into the wine. Honey Wines produce an amber colored wine. The amber color is darker the more honey that is used in the final product.
The Wine Making Business
The remainder of this course goes into the actual making of wine on a commercial scale. It covers what I have learned from being in the business for over 9 years and how we spent 10 years before that getting our formulas right.
The course covers what processes are involved and what types of equipment we use. It also covers some of the marketing techniques that we used.
The wine industry is generally a friendly business, where we share ideas and processes. I personally sit on the Texas Department of Agriculture, Wine Industry Advisory Committee. This committee is made up of educators, vineyards, and wineries from the State of Texas, all great guys and gals. We have the common interest of building the wine industry and its awareness in Texas.
I hope three things for you, first that you learned something from this brief overview of wine making, and second that you consider opening and running your own winery, and third that you will take the remainder of this course. It is designed to provide you an understanding of what is required to run a winery business.
All of the materials and regulations discussed in this course are related to the wine industry in Texas. However, all winery regulations begin at the Federal level.