Friday, 5 December 2014

The Hand Crafted Experience of Small Batch Vineyards

A revolution has been brewing in the world of wine, spirits and beer over the last few decades, and it is one that has been moving in the reverse order of that list. Home brewing started to become popular again in the late 1970's, and as states and the federal government relaxed restrictions, microbreweries began to appear. The success experienced by such companies as Samuel Adams and Sierra Nevada led many people to look into producing artisanal spirits; small batch production that returned a local flavor to an otherwise homogenized category. Finally, the movement has moved full circle and people are beginning to experience the joy of small batch vineyards.

Since the end of prohibition, almost all alcohol production and sales was done on the vast economy of size. A Mom and Pop winery couldn't compete on a national scale with large scale wineries. Some wines and wineries of California were the result of hundreds of thousands of acres, allowing them to work on a level that smaller regional wineries were unable to match. Because of limited distribution, many of these smaller wineries failed. Those that managed to stay afloat did so on a very small scale, with their product only available at the winery itself and perhaps in a few supportive locally owned stores.

Ironically it was an invention of the modern age that helped regenerate a tradition that goes back thousands of years. With the internet, people were no longer forced to only shop at stores they could conveniently reach. The entire world was their marketplace and they were discovering regional wines they may have only read about in trade magazines and always wanted to try. Instead of having to buy a plane ticket or drive hundreds of miles, it was available to them right now. The only problem is that there was still a lot of red tape that stood in the way of shipping alcohol across state lines. Once again, it was big business that stepped in and unwittingly breathed new life into Mom and Pop wineries.

The companies online that a person could shop at quickly outgrew their original business models, and the most successful ones, with revenues in the billions, now wanted to sell everything they could. Their financial capital gave them the leverage to lobby the politicians into relaxing the laws that governed interstate commerce. Included in this was the ability to sell wine directly to the consumer in many states. Now, a winery didn't need to produce massive amounts in order to break the profit threshold. Small batch vineyards, comprised of a handful of acres, could produce the wines they wanted and create a successful niche market on the scale that they wanted, as well.

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