Here’s why SECCO Wine Club doesn’t cut corners when it comes to the art of making wine.
Producing wine for the masses can be a bit of a juggling act. From the price of production, shipping and storage costs, and the hundreds of different decisions to make when creating wine from grape to glass–it can be a lot. But wine is about the experience, not the numbers. So it might be a juggling act, but when you can balance all of that and still manage to meet a high standard of wine excellence, that’s when it becomes art.
That’s why we take so much pride in our methods. We don’t cut corners because we want to ensure the best flavor, bouquet, and experience. Plus, the market is shifting, which is both exciting and terrifying. One thing that’s always stood the test of time though, is quality. So, here’s a brief look at some of the items we juggle in our pursuit of high-quality wine for the masses.
You have to admit, there’s something innately romantic about wine. We drink wine for special occasions. We share a bottle with friends and family. Sometimes a glass of wine is a regular part of our evening ritual. You might even be entertaining images of classic Italian vineyards with vines heavy with grapes ready for harvest.
As more and more demand for wine has developed though, those romantic visions of barefoot grape stomping are a thing of the past. Costs have soared and the industrialization of wine has replaced romanticism with efficiency.
Pssst! Our vineyards actually ARE in Tuscany ;D
High demand means larger wine batches. And wine batches with thousands of gallons require precision machines to leave as little room for error as possible. Having to dump a 100,000-gallon tank over one error can cost vintners hundreds of thousands of dollars.
To avoid such costly mistakes, some wine makers turn to massive production lines, high tech machines, and chemical additives. And honestly, it’s hard to fault those decisions.
This is particularly relevant in light of the 2020 State of Wine Industry Report. It says, “As we move into a low-growth environment in 2020, the dominant competitive issue will shift to efficiencies. Now, you will not only need to continue to make great wine and incessantly evolve your sales channels, but you will also need to run your business as efficiently as possible so your margins are better than your peers’.”
That particular report is looking at vineyards in the US, however our vineyards are in Europe. So to “run our business as efficiently as possible” we juggle additional items that local vineyards don’t.
The Cost of Mass-Market Wine
Wine making is often split into four key phases that each has its own production costs:
- Production (vineyard → grape)
- Processing (grape → fermented wine)
- Processing (fermented wine → aged wine, aging with barrels, bottling, aging with bottle)
The cost of each phase can vary wildly. If you own your own vineyard that comes with its own massive list of management costs. Costs also vary with the type of barrels used, how long wine is aged during each aging process, quality of glass bottle, various technologies used, package and label designs, and other marketing.
Making wine is expensive. A Washington State University study examined the investment costs of constructing, owning, and operating a WA winery. The wineries they examined ranged in annual case production from 2,000 to 20,000. Assuming that each location produced and sold at maximum capacity, investments ran from $560,000 all the way up to $2,339,108.
That’s just in Washington though. For those who own and/or operate overseas vineyards, the costs multiply quickly.
There are, admittedly, certain steps you can take to minimize costs and speed up production time. However, not all companies use these practices, and for good reason.
Cutting Corners in Wine Making
The goal is always to make the best wine possible while keeping costs low. That’s how companies generate more revenue. However, when making wine for the masses there are certain “techniques” that people use to boost flavor, color, or bouquet. This allows them to overcome hurdles from sub-par grapes, fast-track the production process, and/or offer them corrective tools to use when needed.
Honestly, you can’t fault people for trying to be efficient. That’s kind of the name of the game at this point. But saving time and money with these tactics can cost more than you’d think.
The FDA only requires that wine labels include where the grapes originated from, type of wine, alcohol content, sulfites, and they must disclose if it contains three particular color additives. That’s it.
There are more than 60 government approved additives that can be used. Some of them are pretty common and some are used for corrective purposes.
Common additives can be used to help yeast ferment, eliminate microorganisms, clarify, or even stabilize. Examples include sulfites, active dry yeast, sulfur dioxide, and isinglass (fish bladder–yes, you read that right). Many are sensitive to sulfites though, which is why the FDA requires it on the label.
Corrective additives are…questionable at best. People wouldn’t use these if they didn’t need them. When corrective additives are used, it usually means something was a little off. These can be used to color wine, correct undesirable aromas and flavors, enrich grapes that aren’t concentrated enough, reduce or increase acidity, and more.
Some examples of corrective additives are tartaric acid, copper sulfate, and mega purple (a concentrated syrup used to correct color issues).
In so many ways, technology increases efficiency and convenience. The same thing can be said for the use of technology in wine making. Yes, you can make wine without high tech mechanics. But it takes a lot longer and can yield less wine.
Enologists, however, “…should have a thorough understanding of the technologies to avoid negative impact on wine quality through the treatment” (Alcohol Reduction by Physical Methods).
The Spinning Cone Column method reduces alcohol without altering flavor. Vintners pour wine through a tube with both spinning and non-spinning tubes inside. When the wine hits the spinning tubes, the water and alcohol are vaporized and aromatic compounds are collected. The vapor is then condensed, the amount of alcohol can be adjusted, and the flavor gets added back in.
Micro Oxygenation is a way that wine makers can produce a wine that tastes far older than it really is. When wine isn’t aging fast enough, small oxygen bubbles can be added to the tank to soften it.
Drawbacks to this method are that each grape variety reacts differently to oxygenation, which can impact astringency, phenolic compounds, color, mouthfeel, and bacteria. This method can take a lot of trial and error.
Reverse Osmosis is when water and ethanol are removed from wine by passing it through two membranes. They can then be added back in afterward so that winemakers have more control over concentrations.
There is, however, a theory that this method strips flavor and alters pH depending on the type of membranes used.
The New Wine Market
One very important item to take into consideration is WHO actually buys wine. Which groups of people affect the demand for wine?
In the past, baby boomers were the wine lovers of the world. However, over the next six years, 27.9 million Americans will cross the normal retirement age and 30.3 million turn 40. Consumers are different now and they want different things. So while juggling production costs and manufacturing decisions, we also have to ask ourselves what people actually want from wine?
“Baby boomers, who control 70 percent of US discretionary income and half of the net worth in the US, are moving into retirement and declining in both their numbers and per capita consumption, while millennials aren’t yet embracing wine consumption as many had predicted”. (State of the Wine Industry Report 2020)
So if boomers are headed out, and millennials haven’t quite developed a taste for wine, where does that leave vintners?
It means the wine industry must adapt to the growing demographic with the largest opportunity. Surprisingly, that’s still millennials and some older Gen Zs.
Millennials lacked the financial stability of previous generations and have been slower to develop careers as a result. The majority choose premium spirits, craft beers, or even abstain from alcohol altogether.
What’s really interesting is that those abstaining aren’t necessarily avoiding the negative impacts of alcohol. These health-conscious consumers are more concerned with calories and weight gain. This has led to a number of different trends such as Dry January or Mindful Drinking.
The SECCO Wine Club Mission
So how does SECCO Wine Club manage high production and shipping costs plus a shifting market?
We make damn good wine.
It’s more than that though. We’ve taken all of the best parts of old-world wine and modernized them for the shifting values of younger people. We fully support health-conscious consumers who care about what goes into their bodies.
Our old world, organic PALO61 Wines are some of the first bottles to include a nutrition label. And you know what you won’t find on those labels? Added sugars or chemicals. We grow, harvest, and craft low-carb wines free of toxins and additives.
We WANT consumers to know what’s in their wine so they can make the right decisions for their bodies. Plus, we want to keep our vineyards (and the planet) as healthy as possible by utilizing dry farming techniques.
This is the wine that we always wanted. A wine that you can feel good sharing with your family members. Wine that doesn’t hold you back from health and lifestyle goals. A wine that enriches your experiences instead of taking away.
We hope this inspires you to experience SECCO Wine Club, or maybe just to try out a bottle or two. And the next time you post a pic of your pals with your PALO61 bottle, be sure to tag @seccowineclub for a chance to be featured on our page.