Buying Grapes Versus Running A Vineyard Winery: Is There A Difference?

So, we are watching this video about the 'Wine Ghetto' in Lompoc, California (not sure how we feel about the name - but whatever). There is an industrial park with blocks of tasting rooms for wineries that do not own vineyard acreage. They have purchase agreements with vineyards to buy grapes or may even purchase bulk wine to re-brand. These are very different business models as compared to Estate Wineries where the grapes are grown, pressed, and fermented on-site.

As we reported earlier in the year, the 2011 Wine Spectator Wine of the Year from Kosta Browne is made in the same model.  No vineyards, light on any fixed equipment, and great wine is the result.  But, is there some thought around it not being totally 'legit' because it wasn't made on an Estate?  This kind of also pulls in the snoot factor argument.  Is it snooty to think that a wine should be grown and made in the same place?  We certainly think it is.  However, let's take it to the next level.  What if you are importing grapes or juice from another country or even further, bulk wine and putting your label on it?  Is that still legit?  We would say yes BUT we also feel there is a gradient here.  There has been controversy here in Canada around wine makers bringing in bulk juice or grapes and making wine here and using the term Cellared In Canada (CIC).  This indicates that the grapes have come from anywhere and are simple fermented and bottled here.  The trouble is they can technically be considered local wines....not cool.  Similar to the idea that something labeled Product of France needs to contain 75% of the wine being made from French grapes, the other 25% can come from anywhere.  There are subsequent labeling issues that need to be addressed and you can read more about that from here.

Back to the legitimacy.

In our opinion, we would let the product stand up as the final judge.  You can make just as terrible wines on an Estate as you can from bringing in grapes from out of the country.  If you are making good wine, it should not really matter about how the grapes came to be in your possession.  That said, you can't start calling wine made from grapes that you brought in from Croatia, local wine.  That just doesn't sit right.  Not sure if CIC makes any sense or not, certainly Made in Canada is a stretch at best, but whatever you choose to label your wine (or are legislated to label it), it needs to be good.

What are your thoughts on this?  Do you even take notice or care where the grapes that went into a wine are grown relative to the winery?  The Lompoc Wine Ghetto certainly is an interesting idea.  A group of wineries, all a stone's throw from one another and all making wine on premises to sell to licensees and the general public in their tasting rooms.  Definitely a unique concept.

Keep on tasting!

Chris & Shannon


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