While homebrewing has become popular among beer lovers and even some spirit aficionados, winemaking still brings to mind large-scale production, gigantic wine plantations and a huge variety of equipment foreign to the backyard brewer.
The truth, however, is that small-scale winemaking has grown considerably over the past few decades. A tradition that once required a large investment setup is now accessible to craft lovers who want to produce wine on a small scale, focusing on limited releases, special editions, and “experimental” mixes.
Equipment and Set Up
Here’s one thing to keep in mind about small wineries: they don’t necessarily need any less equipment than big ones. They just need smaller sizes and possibly just one of each item. For example, a winery producing in a small scale might only need a few barrels for post-fermentation storage while a large winery would need hundreds, if not thousands of them, to keep up with demand.
In addition, many small scale wineries don’t own their vineyard, cutting down on the massive costs of purchasing land and producing suitable grapes. In fact, the smartest model for small-scale winemaking is a combination of buying basic ingredients, outsourcing part of the production (such as bottle design or even bottling) and basically focusing much of the effort in the mixing, recipes and fermentation of the wines.
The result? Small-scale wineries can take risks to pursue innovations. For example, some small-scale wineries are aging their wines in oak barrels normally reserved for whiskey and other spirits. Others are experimenting by using berries or adding hints of chocolate or other aromatic undertones to their wines. Small-scale winemaking means wineries can afford to try new things, producing small batches to explore the market.
More Growth is Needed
The craft beer movement is now a well-established, powerful business on its own, but small-scale craft wine still has lots to go before it reaches a similar level. The reason? According to an article on The Palate Press, an online wine magazine, wine has limitations that beer doesn’t. For example, beer can be made at any time of the year, while wine is dependent on grapes maturing. In addition, beer brewers can source ingredients from around the world and are much less limited by flavor, often experimenting with everything from chocolate to pumpkin to chili pepper as additions.
For wine to become unique – a truly boutique handcrafted wine – winemakers need to think outside the box. One way to do that is by collaborating with other wineries, creating one-off mixes that can be marketed as limited editions. Or mixing grapes and then adding fruity undertones during the fermentation process.
In the end, the key to success for small-scale wineries is their willingness to try new things. The craft beer movement exploded when brewers dared to take risks. As small wineries push their boundaries and try new things, they are bound to find their way too.