Small Wineries vs. Larger Operations: Quality Against Quantity

Quality over quantity – it’s a simple concept everyone is familiar with – but it’s one that is often argued in the wine industry. Can one really gauge a wine’s quality by the number of bottles produced? In more cases than not, the answer is yes. This doesn’t mean that large winery operations aren’t capable of producing top-notch wines, only that when it comes to true artisanal wine, the benchmark is often determined by a limited production.

In small wineries, a winemaker has the control, time, and means to personally taste each and every barrel and tank of wine. Beyond the cellar doors, the vineyard manager will become accustomed to the individual conditions the vines and vineyard sections. In short, small wineries often put more effort and time into their winemaking than large-scale wineries. This level of control is unachievable in massive operations, not to mention it’s less costly to run to a small winery, where less manpower and equipment is required to keep up with demand.

Small wineries are able to take risks, think outside the box, and practice innovative winemaking techniques. For example, small wineries have the time and control to practice impressive winemaking techniques that are highly sought after by consumers.  Practices like using only wild yeast for fermentation (that can lead to more complexity in a  wine), a method that is not used in large-scale operations for sake of convenience. Small wine boutiques also are afforded the ability to experiment with untraditional oak barrels, like those typically used in whisky production which can lead to exciting and unchartered flavour profiles craved by consumers.

When exploring the focuses of a large winery, the goal of handcrafting premium, artisanal wines, are generally replaced with the goal to make as much money as quickly as possible and with the highest profit margins. While the wines aren’t necessarily of low quality, they are produced with less commitment per barrel and made to appeal to consumers with trendy packaging and more attractive price points. The focus is shifted from the hands-on winemaking attention seen in small wine boutiques, to the marketing. By shifting focus to the marketing, large wineries produce higher quantities of wine and rely on the branding to sell as many cases as possible.

How can a small wine boutique find a middle ground that allows them to charge a higher price point that will sell to the masses?  The answer is as simple as the truth – small-scale production implies rarity – a treasured interest for any company. Rarity demonstrates that small is beautiful and that a wine made by a winemaker who painstakingly looks after a small vineyard and winery will always be superior and more authentic than a wine produced by machine-filled, large-scale operations.  The message is as simple as the concept of quality over quantity – small wineries have the time and control to make the wines that consumers are willing to buy at higher price points because they offer a rare quality that can only be found off the beaten path. 


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