Vineyard Crop Insurance

By: Trevor TroyerVice, President of Operations for Agricultural Risk Management

Risk Management is always something that is subjective to a grower. How much risk do you feel comfortable with? Or maybe how much risk are you willing to take, even if you aren’t that comfortable? Farmers are naturally risk takers, otherwise they would not be farming. Mother nature is unpredictable, just when you think everything is going to turn out right it doesn’t. Obviously, it turns out ok more often than not. But what about those years when it doesn’t? Sometimes you can have several bad years in a row. Crop Insurance is a good tool for that.

  The Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC) was created in 1938. Originally coverage was limited to major crops. It was basically an experiment at that time, until the passage of the Federal Crop Insurance Act in 1980. The 1980 Act expanded the number of crops insured and areas in the US. In 1996 the USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) was created. RMA’s purpose was to administer the Federal Crop insurance programs and other risk management related programs.

  Grape Crop Insurance goes back to 1998, the current policy was written in 2010. Crop insurance is a partnership with Insurance companies and the FCIC. Crop insurance is partially subsidized through the USDA. Currently there are 13 Approved Insurance Providers authorized to write crop insurance policies with the USDA. Prices and premiums are set by the USDA per crop, state and county. There is no price/premium competition from one company to the next because of this. Independent insurance agents sell for these 13 different insurance providers. They may specialize in crop insurance or other lines of insurance. It is always best to work with an experienced agent that has crop insurance as their main focus.

  Grape crop insurance is available in the following states; Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia and Washington. Crop insurance is not available for grapes in all counties though. Insurable varieties are also different between states and counties. As I mentioned before prices are different between states and counties as well. The USDA price for a ton of Pinot Noir in Oregon is different than a ton of Pinot Noir in New York.

  Grapes are insured under an Actual Production History (APH) plan of insurance. An average of the vineyard’s production per variety is used. Grapes need to be in their 4th growing season to be insurable. A minimum of 4 years is needed to do the average, if the grapes have just become insurable then a Transitional Yield (based on the county and variety) is used in place of any missing years. A maximum of 10 years can be used to determine the average if a vineyard has been in production for that amount time. Basically, you are insuring an average of your tons per acre per variety.

  With crop insurance you cannot cover 100% of your average production. You can choose coverage levels from 50% to 85%. There is a built-in production deductible. Coverage levels are in 5% increments. Coverage levels are relative to premium, the lower the coverage the lower the premium, the more coverage you buy the higher the premium. It comes back to how much risk you feel safe with. You can also For example, if you have Cabernet Sauvignon in California and your average is 5 tons per acre. At the 75% coverage level you would be covered for 3.75 tons per acre. You would have a 25% deductible (1.25 tons per acre). To have a payable loss you would have to lose more than 25% of your average production.

  The Causes of Loss per the policy are; 1. Adverse weather conditions; 2. Fire; 3, Insects; 4. Plant disease; 5, Wildlife; 6. Earthquake; 7. Volcanic eruption; and 8. Failure of irrigation water supply. There are more details to the causes of loss, you can’t have a loss due to plant disease if you are not applying sufficient and proper applications of control measures. Adverse weather conditions can be excess moisture, drought, extreme heat, frost, freeze etc. Fire can cause “smoke taint” and that is covered. Inability to market the grapes for any reason other than physical damage from an insurable cause is not covered. Damage due to phylloxera is also not covered.

  There are sign up deadlines with all crop insurance policies. This is the same for Grape crop insurance as well. The deadline for all states other than California is November 20th. For California the deadline to sign up is January 31st. Premiums are not due at the time of sign-up; premium billing is done in August.

  Agricultural Risk Management is a national crop insurance agency with offices in Florida, California and Pennsylvania. 2022 will be our 20th year of selling crop insurance.

 For more information, please email info@agriskmgmt.com or call (239) 789-4742, Trevor Troyer: Vice President of Operations for Agricultural Risk Management

Domaine Nicolas-Jay: Melding Burgundian & Willamette Valley Wines

By: Becky Garrison

Nicholas- Jay estate winery & tasting room, Dundee Hills AVA, Willamette Valley, Oregon

While many winemakers in the Willamette Valley wondered how they could survive during this ongoing global pandemic, Domaine Nicolas-Jay opened their new winery and tasting room in April 2021. When asked about the unique characteristics of this sustainability-focused winery situated on 53 acres in the Dundee Hills AVA, co-founder Jay Boberg mentions the Tolix benches from France. These benches gracing the deck of their tasting room situated in Newberg, Oregon represent a nod to the winery’s French influences courtesy of winemaker and co-founder Jean-Nicolas Méo.

  Upon initial glance, one may wonder why when asked, Boberg focused on the architecture and not their wines in describing his winery. But for Boberg, one cannot separate the experience of drinking wine from the wines themselves.

  In curating their winery’s ambiance, Boberg and Méo worked together to meld Burgundian and Oregonian influences. Inspired by a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, California, they sought to provide their visitors with a similar immersive experience. The end result is a welcoming space with a European country flair that distinguishes itself from the rustic or industrial architectural styles that define many Pacific Northwest wineries’ tasting rooms.

  Guests sit at a kitchen island near the fireplaces as they savor a rotating selection of wines. These wine tastings are paired with locally sourced food served in dishes from New York City-based Lucy Park Ceramics. The tasting room’s wooden floor and two long modern tables were crafted out of the seventeen trees they had to knock down in order to plant their vineyard. Also, Boberg sourced and refurbished the mid-century modern chairs from a local Portland restaurant. Other homey touches include Gold records and other artifacts from Boberg’s decades as a music entrepreneur, a career that included cofounding I.R.S Records and serving as President for MCA/Universal Records for more than ten years. Boberg reflects, “We wanted our tasting room to feel like you’re coming into our living room and so we have lots of personal effects in there.”

The Intersection of Wine and Music

  Boberg began exploring music when he was seven, and later developed his passion for wine when he was in college. His college roommate worked for a wine distributor, a connection that enabled him to taste wines from Napa Valley at a time when his peers were consuming Jack Daniels and Budweiser. Then he met Méo in 1988 courtesy of his sister as both his sister and  Méo were attending Penn State.

  In his journey exploring wines, Boberg met importers Kermit Lynch and Neal Rosenthal, and noted their approach to wines paralleled his interests in music. “Just as these men were championing original wines, I was trying to find artists who were creating music that was truly unique and extraordinary.”

  Boberg finds many parallels between creating music and creating wine. Each year they begin their season in the vineyard with a new canvas. Factors such as weather combined with the particular vines they’ve planted, crop load, canopy management, harvest time, and other winery practices will inform how each particular wine will turn out.

  During his travels as a music executive, Boberg had ample opportunities to connect with such luminary winemakers as Henri Jayer, who is considered the “Godfather of Burgundy,” and known for the quality of his Pinot Noir. Also, Boberg continued his friendship with Méo. As owner and winemaker of the Côte d’Or’s Domaine Méo-Camuzet, Méo spent nearly 30 years making wines from vineyards like Richebourg, Clos de Vougeot, Corton Clos Rognet, and Échezeaux.

Applying Burgundian Influences to Willamette Valley Vines

  Both Méo and Boberg became entranced by the potential and quality of Oregon’s Pinot Noirs. They decided to combine their respective backgrounds in winemaking and marketing to a new region replete with new vineyards, new soils, and a new climate. In this quest, Boberg took the same approach to creating wine that he did when signing artists. “I never signed a band because I thought they were going to be a big hit. I signed them because their music touched me emotionally,” Bobeg reflected. In the same vein, Boberg and Méo wanted to make a wine they wanted to drink in the hopes there were enough people out there who had similar palates.

  In Oregon’s Willamette Valley, they found the kind of balanced, terroir-driven wines they like to drink. In addition, they were drawn to the wine community that considers other winemakers to be collaborators not competitors. Also, the economics of Oregon enabled them to start a viable business compared to launching a winery in California.

  After visiting over two hundred Oregon wineries over a two year span, they learned to recognize the vineyards they loved, as well as the practices in the vineyards and wineries that produced the wines that best suited their palettes. In 2014 they purchased Bishop Creek, an organic vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA planted in the 1980s. This north-facing site provides cooler temperatures that allow for later ripening Pinot Noir and Chardonnay along with Jory volcanic soils. In 2016, they launched their first release, a 2014 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir that was selected as one of Wine Spectator Magazine’s Top 100 Wines of the year.

  While their initial focus was on Pinot Noir, they expanded their offerings to include limited releases of Chardonnay and Rosé. In addition to the Bishop Creek vineyard, they planted three acres of Pinot Noir on their Dundee Hills property. They will also plant vines that were imported from Méo-Camuzet, which need to be quarantined for a year. Eventually, they plan on having 25 acres of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in all. Also, they select grapes from other Willamette Valley vineyards including Nysa, Momtazi, Hyland, and La Colina.

Applying Burgundian Winemaking Techniques to Oregon Pinot Noir

  Even though Méo is based in France, he communicates with Associate Winemaker Tracy Kendall and Boberg to collaborate on all aspects of winemaking from harvest to elevage to bottling. In Kendall’s estimation the biggest difference between Nicolas-Jay and other wineries she’s worked with in New Zealand, Australia, Washington, and Oregon is Nicolas-Jay’s refusal to accept the status quo. “Because we’ve always done it that way is never an acceptable explanation for why we do what we do,” Kendall notes. Also, another big difference she found is Nicolas-Jay’s focus on structure and texture in the wines rather than flavor. As she states, “The flavor of Pinot Noir develops if the grapes are picked for texture and weight and if fermentation is handled in such a way as to create the desired textural outcome. This to me is an old world approach to winemaking and I’ve been excited to see the success it has with Oregon Pinot Noir.”

  A key difference they noticed between Méo’s wines produced in Burgundy versus Oregon is the amount of new oak used. While Méo uses somewhere between 50% and 100% new oak in his Burgundian wines, they found the terroir of Oregon meant they needed to use 30% new oak in order to get the taste they desired for their Oregon wines.

  According to Kendall, Nicolas-Jay’s use of a gravity flow passive winery means that from the time the grapes reach the winery to the time they get to their fermentation vat they are not pumped anywhere or mechanically moved from location to location. “This allows for a gentle, reductive process that keeps the grapes and juice protected prior to fermentation,” she observes. Their winery is designed appropriately with an upper deck where the fruit is received and sent down the sorting line where it drops into the destemmer and then into the fermentation vat in a seamless manner. 

Moving Forward Post Covid

  When Covid-19 began impacting Oregon businesses in 2020, Nicolas-Jay began offering virtual wine tastings. Initially, they focused on Méo who led masterclass tastings on topics such as winemaking techniques and soil types. Then they pivoted to joint community tastings with other Pinot Noir winemakers. 

  Like some other local vintners, they chose not to release a red Pinot Noir in 2020 due to the smoke caused by multiple Oregon wildfires. However, they did take their Pinot Noir grapes and crush them immediately and not give them any skin contact, which resulted in a white Pinot Noir. Also, in 2020 they produced a Chardonnay and a Rosé. 

  According to Kendall, they harvested earlier in 2021 than they did historically to fight the cumulative heat that caused the grapes to ripen sooner than usual. “We always strive to make a wine with lower alcohol, higher acidity and more overall balance and in this new climate that often means starting harvest at the end of August or early September.” Also, they left more leaf canopy in the vineyard to protect the grapes from sun and heat, which helps to delay ripening as much as possible. 

  As part of their commitment to farming their vineyards using organic and sustainable means, they will be introducing Oregon’s first electric self-driving tractor from Monarch. In addition to reducing their fossil fuel consumption, this tractor brings a software system into play that will enable them to have more control and precision in terms of their farming practices.

  In 2021, Nicolas-Jay produced over 4,000 cases. The winery can make up to 7,500 cases, a goal Boberg thinks they might reach in five years. However, they do not intend to expand their winemaking production beyond this capacity, choosing instead to remain a boutique winery catering to those who share Boberg and Méo’s tastes in wine.

Wine Competitions: Are They for You?

By: Nan McCreary

Every year, hundreds of wine competitions are staged throughout the world. As the wine industry becomes more crowded, winning a medal—especially a gold or a Double Gold—can attract consumers and build brand recognition. But the option may not be for everyone. It’s up to the winery to decide whether entering these events should be part of your marketing strategy.

  Wine competitions run the gamut from enormous international shows to small local events that only feature wines from a specific region or appellation. Typically, wineries submit entries to various classes. The wines are judged by a diverse group of wine experts, who sit in panels of three to five people to taste and consider each wine. Judging is all blind, with the panel only knowing grape variety and class. Wines are evaluated on their own merits—color, clarity, aroma, taste, finish and overall quality—rather than as part of a ranking and, based on voting by the judges, are awarded a gold, silver or bronze medal, or perhaps no medal.

  The Decanter World Wine Awards, the world’s largest and most influential wine competition, defines a gold medal as “an outstanding and memorable wine within its category,” a silver as “a high-quality wine of excitement and personality within its category,” and a bronze as “a well-made and satisfying wine within its category.” Many competitions offer a Double Gold medal, where all members of the panel unanimously award the wine a gold rating. In most competitions, wines advance through a series of rounds: the initial medal round, semi-finals, and the super panel or “sweepstakes” round, where the overall winners are selected.

  Beyond these basics, each wine show varies in size, entry requirements and benefits. Here are three wine competitions that offer a broad range of what to expect when considering entering your wines.

The Decanter World Wine Awards

The Decanter World Wine Awards, founded in 2004, is the world’s biggest and most prestigious wine show. Organized by Decanter—the world’s leading wine media brand—the London-based competition is recognized by wine lovers globally for its world-class judging panels and a rigorous judging process. In the 2021 event held in June, entries set an all-time record of 18,094 wines from 56 countries. Wines were judged over the course of two weeks by more than 160 wine experts, including 44 Masters of Wine and 11 Master Sommeliers, evaluated in flights by country, region, color, grape, vintage and price point. Categorizing wines by price ensures wines are judged against their peers.

  As in all wine competitions, judging is blind, with the panel knowing nothing about the producers. Entry fees are $230 per entry plus a $21 surcharge per order, plus shipping fees. Wineries must provide four samples of each entry. According to DWWA, winning a medal is a “trusted mark of approval for buyers globally and has been proven to increase wine sales, secure distribution in new markets and improve brand awareness.”

Medal winners may purchase DWWA bottle stickers and receive promotion from Decanter through its global digital network, wine tastings, presence at major wine trade shows and exposure to leading retailers throughout the world. For more information, visit www.decanter.com

The San Francisco International Wine Competition

  The San Francisco International Wine Competition is America’s largest international wine competition. Founded in 1980, the three-day event is one of the oldest international competitions in the world. In 2019, there were 4,500 entries judged by 60 experienced and internationally recognized wine experts. Winners are awarded a gold, silver or bronze medal or a Double Gold. The cost per entry is $110, along with the submission of three 750 ml bottles of each entry. Winners receive a marketing toolkit that offers tips for building brand recognition, boosting customer acquisition and retention, and generating publicity and trade attention. Winners also have access to pre-printed bottle stickers; medallion artwork to use in print, internet and social media promotions; discounted point-of-sale promotional materials; and participation in tasting events that provide exposure to target markets. For more information, visit www.sfwinecomp.com

Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo: Rodeo Uncorked! International Wine Competition

  Now in its nineteenth year, Rodeo Uncorked! highlights wine production in agriculture. The event sets itself apart for two reasons: Judging is based on a double-blind procedure, and it is audited onsite by PricewaterhouseCoopers, ensuring the highest integrity. This year’s competition featured 2,862 entries from 17 countries, including 480 wineries from Texas and several hundred entries from this year’s featured region, Washington State.

  Judges for the three-day event include local, national and international representatives from the supplier, wholesale, retail and restaurant branches of the wine trade, as well as members of the press and a select group of knowledgeable local consumers. Winners of the top 13 awards receive custom, hand-tooled leather trophy saddles. Class and Reserve Class Champions are awarded custom belt buckles. All winners have access to high-resolution formats for point of sale materials, including digital medals for online and print marketing and printed bottle stickers.

  The cost to enter the competition is $60 per bottle for early bird entry, along with five bottles of wine per entry. After the show, winners of the top award have an opportunity to participate in three wine-related fundraising events for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. They include Rodeo Uncorked! Roundup & Best Bites Competition, where 400-500 award-winning wines are served with gourmet foods from top Houston restaurants to over 5,000 attendees; the Champion Wine Auction & Dinner, rated by Wine Spectator Magazine as one of the top five wine auctions in the country; and Rodeo Uncorked! Champion Wine Garden, which offers winning wines for sale during the annual Rodeo in March. Every year, these events generate approximately $6 million charitable dollars to support Rodeo’s mission. For more information on the competition, visit www.rodeohouston.com/wine

What competitions should you enter?

  If brand building is key to your marketing strategy, look at each competition and consider the exposure you will receive as a participant or winner in the event. Also, look at the reliability of judging as a benchmark against your peers, access to digital marketing materials to promote your brand, options for participation in consumer events and cost of entries and bottles versus benefits offered by your entry.

  “The purpose of wine competitions is to advance the brand,” said Paul V. Bonarrigo, co-founder of Messina Hof Wine Cellars, Inc. in Bryan, Texas, and winner of thousands of medals in local, national and international competitions. “Many established wineries that sell out each year do not enter competitions.”

  While some wine competitions may promote an increase in wine sales for winners, that may not be true for all events. “Years ago, wine competitions were tied to retail promotion,” Bonarrigo told The Grapevine Magazine. “When Messina Hof Angel late harvest riesling won a gold medal at the Dallas Morning News, the next week we sold 700 cases to retail in Dallas. Due to the sheer number of competitions, there is very little impact on retail sales today.”

  Bonarrigo, who has entered six competitions per year for the past five years, claims his success comes from building brand recognition. “Today, medals help to reinforce your fan base and can help promote new varieties and new wines. The People’s Choice Competition in Grapevine is an outstanding consumer participation competition. We have consistently won best of class in 75 to 100% of our entries. It has helped us secure a very loyal fan base in Dallas/Ft. Worth and especially in Grapevine.”

  Bonarrigo said he enters some shows simply because he supports and believes in the cause. “A great example,” he said, “is the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Merrill (Bonariggo’s wife and co-founder) and I helped launch the competition.

  “We have won seven saddles—six for Best Texas Winery and one for Top Overall Winery. The Rodeo does a great job promoting the winners with a Grand Tasting and a Wine Auction. Messina Hof holds the record for the highest price paid for a Texas wine at the auction. Our Tawny Port fetched $105,000.”

Sponsorship

For the sponsors of wine competitions, the goal is to market their event to wineries. Jennifer Lindsay, director of the Rodeo Houston Wine Show, said, “We work with local distributors through our winery relations committee to reach out to their suppliers and encourage them to enter. We also offer incentives, such as exposure through the Roundup & Best Bites Competition, the Champion Wine Auction & Dinner and the Champion Wine Garden, ‘the biggest bar in Texas.’”

  Rodeo Uncorked! awards also generate interest in the event. “Our top awards are very unique,” Lindsay told The Grapevine Magazine. “When people see the saddles and buckles in tasting rooms around the world, the word gets around and helps grow our competition internationally.”

  In the world of wine competitions, there is something for everyone. Besides national, international, regional and local shows, wineries can enter competitions that feature women winemakers or specific typologies or varieties. There’s even a competition that judges wines alongside other wines in their particular terroir—the Grand Harvest Awards in California. New classes are continually added: canned and flavored wines, saké and even CBT-infused wines are making their way into wine shows. Whatever your interest, there may be a competition for you.

Free Sulfur Dioxide: Aeration Oxidation Test (Tried & True)

By: Tom Payette, Winemaking Consultant  

A precise test for a winery to measure the free Sulfur Dioxide in juices, musts, wines and at bottling is critical.  Selecting the proper test can be challenging due to cost and expertise.  Make certain to investigate the options of the many available tests to determine which one gives reliable results when working with your wines.  Having the precise number is imperative to take proper action if needed.  One of the tests, aeration oxidation, is discussed below.  It may seem antiquated but many well established cellars still adhere to this testing system.

  The equipment to run the aeration oxidation test is not inexpensive, the chemistry somewhat daunting, and the glass apparatus has the appearance of being overly fragile and complicated.  The units are expensive however, since we are seeking to measure a chemical in parts per million. A tool to do just that is bound to be costly.  The mechanics and chemistry are not complicated.  Without drawing large chemical equations a summary follows:  Free SO2 is drawn off of a sample of wine after a shift in the pH brings the sample to a very low ph range allowing all the free SO2 to be released and measured.  Once in the gaseous state, the gas is pulled through a hydrogen peroxide reaction flask with an indictor in the flask’s solution.  The hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) reacts with the SO2 to form H2SO4 (a very low concentration sulfuric acid) and H2O (water).  This in turn lowers the ph of the Hydrogen Peroxide collection flask and then the lab technician can titrate this sample with a weak base.  The weak base is measured volumetrically to determine how much of the base it took to neutralize the acid sample and then mathematically use that to formulate the Sulfur Dioxide content of the wine being tested.

Tools and Chemicals

•   25% Phosphoric acid

•   30% Hydrogen Peroxide

•   0.01 Normal Sodium Hydroxide

•   0.01 Normal Potassium Acid Phthalate or Hydrochloric acid.

•   Aeration oxidation indicator dye

•   10 milliliter burette – class A volumetric

•   20 milliliter pipette – class A volumetric

•   25 milliliter delivery cup squeeze bottle set at 10 milliliters delivery –  approximate.

•   100 milliliter graduated cylinder

•   Burette stand and a burette clamp

•   Vacuum source (adjustable) – only a light vacuum source is needed.

•   Aeration oxidation apparatus

•   Distilled water

Mixing and Standardizing Chemicals

•   Purchase or pre-mix your sodium hydroxide to 0.01 Normal.

•   Standardize the 0.01 Normal Sodium Hydroxide against the 0.01 Normal Potassium Acid Phthalate or 0.01 HCL.  Do this daily before each day’s work with this unit to be certain your results will be accurate.  This is a critical part of this test because it must be exact!

•   Purchase or premix the 25% Phosphoric acid.  Pre-mixing may be done by adding 1 portion of 85% phosphoric acid to 2 portions of distilled water. Example:  333.33 milliliters phosphoric acid to 666.33 milliliters water to make one liter.  Transfer a portion of this mixture to the preset squeeze bottle, set at 10 milliliter delivery, so it is ready for use.

•   Purchase the dye indictor because making it is much too daunting.

•   Purchase 30% Hydrogen Peroxide and mix 3.0 milliliters into 97.0 milliliters of distilled water (this should be ample to cover very high free SO2’s).  Add about 2 drops of 0.01 Normal Sodium Hydroxide to this fresh stock mix to shift the pH slightly to the basic side.  This will help the indictor solution to give a vivid “seawater” green at the beginning of each test and after the titration is complete.  Do not use store purchased hydrogen peroxide from a local pharmacy.

Procedure

1.  Make sure your apparatus is clean, set up properly and in good working condition.   After cleaning, rinse all of the lab ware with distilled water to remove any minerals and residues.  Allow to dry.

2.  Make sure the chemicals are readily available and mixed to the proper concentrations.

3.  Fill the 10 ml volumetric burette with 0.01 N. NaOH and make sure all air bubbles are out of the stopcock and delivery tip area.  Inspect.

4.Standardize the 0.01 N NaOH if not already done above.  This is crucial for good measurement.

5.  Rinse the reaction flask with a small amount (5 milliliters) of the premixed 0.3% (or greater) hydrogen peroxide (H2O2).

6.  To the Hydrogen peroxide reaction flask add the amount of 0.3% H2O2 (approximately 10 mils) and 5-6 drops of dye indicator.

7.  Attach the reaction flask into the clamp holder and place the glass bubbler portion back into the reaction flask.

8.  Select a fresh representative sample of the wine to be tested that was already collected and placed in the lab.  Using the 20 milliliter volumetric pipette transfer exactly 20 milliliters of wine into the lower boiling flask.

9.  Be ready to place the wine sample boiling flask onto the remaining glassware to complete the set up.

10.      Add 10 milliliters of the 25% phosphoric acid to the wine sample in the lower boiling flask.  [Be careful with this phosphoric acid since it may splash onto you or into unwanted areas of the apparatus.  Perhaps hold it away from the Aeration-Oxidation set up and over a sink.

11.      Immediately place the rubber stopper onto the wine sample boiling flask making the assembly complete and a “closed system”.

12.      Now turn on the vacuum source to vacuum air through the complete set up.  You should see a “boiling” action in both the wine sample boiling flask and the reaction flask.  This should be vigorous but not so vigorous that effluent is being transferred from one reaction vessel to the next – only air should be moving through the tubing.

13.      Time the operation of the units vacuum for 10 minutes – note the reaction flask should have turned purple in color in the first minute – if any Free Sulfur Dioxide is present.  Continue to monitor the test during the timed 10 minute interval making adjustments to the vacuum source, if necessary.

14.      Turn off the vacuum source after the desired 10 minutes.

15.      Disconnect the reaction flask (the one that turned purple) – from the rest of the lab set up assembly.  This will be done by removing the bubbler assembly from the unit and rinsing off any remaining solution on the bubbler tip with a small amount of distilled water.

16.      Turn to your pre-prepared and standardized 0.01 Normal Sodium Hydroxide burette and record the amount of solution in that burette.

17.      Titrate the solution in the reaction flask from the bright purple it has become back to the seawater green it was before starting the test. 

      (Note: Make sure to capture this endpoint since overshooting it will result in an inaccurate calculation of the sulfur dioxide on the high side)

18.      After the seawater green has been achieved, record the number of milliliters in the burette and write this number down on a piece of paper or in the lab book.

19.      Subtract the number of milliliters used to titrate the solution in the reaction flask and record this number to be used in the calculation portion of the test.  Obtain the exact volume of NaOH, to the tenth, used to neutralize the reaction flask content.  Example: 2.3 mils.

Calculation:

  Here is the formula to calculate the free sulfur dioxide:

Free SO2    =    Milliliters of NaOH * Normality of NaOH * 32000

                                          20 milliliters of wine sample tested

The Knowns Above Are:

  The milliliters of sodium hydroxide used to titrate the reaction flask effluent from purple to green as calculated from the reading on the burette.

  The normality of the sodium hydroxide used above since it was standardized recently.

  The given 32000 number

  The sample size of 20 milliliters.

  From this formula we now have enough information to calculate the free sulfur dioxide in the sample of wine.  If the Normality of the Sodium hydroxide is exactly 0.01N one may see results as follows:

  Let’s assume 2.3 milliliters of Sodium hydroxide was used to titrate the reaction flask effluent back to the seawater green color.  So 2.3 times 0.01 times 32000 divided by twenty yields 36.8 parts per million free sulfur dioxide present in the sample tested.  Part per million is also equal to milligrams per liter.

Summary

  This test is really very simple once one gets over the intimidation of the unit and chemistry.  It is recommended to follow these directions in the lab for 8 to 10 test runs and then to run several dozen others to commit the process to memory.  After running this process approximately one hundred times – read this procedure over again and much of the process will become crystal clear.  When learning this test, try to find a time when few interruptions will be expected so focusing on the task at hand will be easy.

Other Helpful Tips

  Once the phosphoric acid is added to the wine sample – all of the free SO2 is released – it is important to capture all of this SO2 in the Hydrogen peroxide solution – hence the need for connecting the wine sample boiling flask as rapidly as possible to the complete set up.  Make sure the Pasteur pipette is positioned to extend to the bottom of the boiling flask, well below the liquids surface, for best results.

  Set your aeration oxidation unit up as the manufacture has intended for the unit to be assembled.

  While performing the test make sure there is not an exogenous source of Sulfur Dioxide in the area of the testing – such as weighing metabisulfite and creating a dust or pungent aroma.  This may throw off the test leading to false readings on the high side.

  Endpoint: Be sure to catch the end point during titration at exactly the precise time the color changes being sure to swirl the reaction flask during titration.

  Send samples to an outside lab for a free sulfur dioxide test to see if the results achieved “in house” are in range with the certified labs.  Once accuracy is achieved, one may wean themselves off the outside lab but periodically send a random sample to an outside lab to pick up on any discrepancies.

  Wine samples tested should be at or below 68 degrees F and preferably at a cool 55 degrees F cellar temperature.

  Wines abnormally high in volatile acidity and carbon dioxide may give false high reading with this test.

  Water system pressure tanks, with many rural water systems, may cause a fluctuation in the vacuum source while oscillating between the pressure switch settings.  Be ready to compensate for this in the lab, adjusting the vacuum if an aspirator is used.

  The author does not recommend using this set up for total SO2 because it is time consuming, hard on the apparatus’s rubber parts and gives the unit a burned dirty look.  For total SO2 the author recommends the Ripper Method, provided ascorbic acid has not been used in the wine or any components of the blend.   An outside lab may be best for this test in terms of total SO2 as many wines rarely reach very high total SO2’s with today’s winemaking.

Reminders:

•   Make sure all chemicals and reagents are standardized and strengths known.

•   Make sure only gases transfer in the hoses – not liquids.

•   Keep a watchful eye on the vacuum to ensure it is proper and even.

•   Be patient and have quiet time to learn this procedure.

•   Sulfur dioxide is important.  An accurate measurement of the free sulfur dioxide in your wine, in PPM, is critical to your winemaking choices.

Other Suggestions to Consider:

1.  Run several tests on the same wine to see if the number can be reproduced. (?)

2.  Have an outside lab run some tests on the same wine.  Are your numbers in line?

3.  If using sorbates in wine – make sure you have ample SO2 in them at bottling.

4.  Run this test, at a minimum, monthly and more so as adjustments are needed and toward bottling.

5.  Consult a winemaker to determine an appropriate storage free SO2 of your wine and the correct bottling measurement.

  Tom Payette, Winemaking Consultant, has over 30 years’ experience with winery start-ups and assisting wineries already established in the industry.

What Spotted Wing Drosophila Means for the Wine Industry

By: Annie Klodd, University of Minnesota Extension

Using a small mesh cage to infest a grape cluster with SWD; Ebbenga, PhD Candidate, Dept. of Entomology, UMN

In case you haven’t heard about invasive fruit fly spotted wing drosophila (SWD), this is the infamous pest that pierces the skin of soft fruits like raspberries and strawberries to lay eggs inside. It costs the US fresh berry industry millions of dollars each year.

  As viticulturists whose businesses rely on high quality fruit, we may be tempted to assume that SWD will also decimate our vineyards in the same way it does berries. However, this might be a poor assumption that causes us to spend more on insecticides with no real benefit.

  The question I will explore today is: How big of a problem is SWD, really, for vineyards? Is it actually any worse for grapes than other fruit flies?

  For SWD to impact grapes like it does to other soft berries, it would have to be able to pierce the grapes’ skin and lay eggs inside. But grape skin may be just thick enough to deter them. Entomology researchers at University of Minnesota recently published a study that found that out of 34 different cold climate hybrid and vinifera grape varieties, SWD was only able to pierce the skin of 4 varieties.

  SWD is more likely to impact vineyards by introducing sour-rot causing bacteria to split or injure grapes. However, common fruit flies already do this, and we already know how to control them. The difference may be that SWD are attracted not only to overripe berries but to ripening berries as well, stretching out our timeline for management.

The Big Fuss About Spotted Wing Drosophila

  SWD is not native to the United States or Canada, but it is now prevalent throughout fruit-growing regions of North America. It was accidentally introduced from east Asia in 2008, likely via cargo as with many invasive pests. It quickly spread throughout the continent, costing the US strawberry, blueberry, cherry, and raspberry industries millions of dollars; in Minnesota raspberries alone, the pest causes over $2M per year. The costs come in the form of damaged fruit, lost marketable yield, and frequent, expensive insecticide applications.

  The feature that makes SWD special from other fruit flies is that the females have a serrated “ovipositor” that they use to pierce the soft skin of ripe berries to lay eggs inside the fruit. Those eggs become larvae (maggots) that feed on the fruit, making it mushy and unsalable. Both male and female SWD can also introduce bacteria to the berries that cause fruit rots. They begin to become attracted to fruit when it is ripe or nearly-ripe fruit and do not infest green, unripe berries.

  Learning what problems SWD poses for the grape industry will help growers decide if spraying for SWD is a worthwhile expense.

Injury from birds, wasps, and splitting makes grapes attractive to fruit flies, which then introduce sour rot-causing bacteria to the berries. Photo: Dominique Ebbenga, UMN.

Researchers Explore the Impact of SWD on Wine Grapes

  Entomology researchers at University of Minnesota recently found that the skin of many cold climate and vinifera grape varieties may actually be too thick for SWD to penetrate. This begs the question: Is SWD really a big deal for the grape and wine industry?

  To find out if SWD can pierce grape skin, the researchers trapped male and female flies in vials with individual grapes, forcing them to mate and attempt to pierce the grapes to lay their eggs. After two weeks, they observed the grapes to see how many varieties the flies were able to infest, and how many grapes were still intact.

The researchers trapped individual grape berries in vials with male and female SWD flies to test which, if any, varieties the flies are capable of penetrating. Photo: Dominique Ebbenga, UMN.

  The grapes they used were harvested weekly between veraison and harvest, to find out whether riper berries were easier for flies to infest.

  Out of 34 hybrid and vinifera varieties tested, the flies were only able to break the skin of 4 varieties: Swenson Red, Vanessa, and two non-released hybrids from the University of Minnesota breeding program. Popular cold- and cool-climate hybrids like Itasca, Marquette, Jupiter, Petite Pearl and Frontenac were unimpacted. Vinifera varieties Chardonnay, Riesling, Malbec, Valde Penas, and Pinot Noir were also unaffected by the flies.

These results suggest a few key lessons:

●   Grapes are much more resilient to SWD than other berries like strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries.

●   Since intact grapes are unlikely to be punctured by SWD, growers should not rush to spray for them if the grapes in the vineyard are healthy and intact.

SWD and Sour Rot Disease

  The researchers’ next question was whether the flies might impact already-damaged grapes, by introducing sour-rot causing bacteria. This was likely, considering that other common fruit flies already do this.

  Common fruit flies like Drosophila melanogaster carry acetobacter, the bacteria responsible for grape sour rot. They are attracted to grapes that have been split open from rain or hail, or have been pierced by birds and wasps.

  When fruit flies feed on leaking, damaged grapes, the acetobacter they carry is converted to acetic acid, infecting the grapes with sour rot. When winemakers use sour rot-infected grapes in wine, the wine has an undesirable flavor and aroma.

  To learn whether SWD can introduce sour rot like other common fruit flies, the researchers did a field study in the vineyard. Mesh bags were used to trap groups of SWD flies on individual grape clusters. They tested Marquette, Itasca, Frontenac, and LaCrescent, four popular cold climate hybrid cultivars from the University of Minnesota.

Mesh bags trap SWD onto grape clusters, to test how they impact the grapes. Photo: Dominique Ebbenga, UMN.

  After about 2 weeks, they processed the grapes into wine and measured the amount of acetic acid in the wine through laboratory analysis. They found that when SWD landed on grapes with split skin, they did introduce acetic acid flaws to the wine.

  This finding is consistent with other studies on sour rot, which have found that fruit flies are necessary to introduce the sour-rot causing bacteria to injured grapes.

  For most cold climate grape growers, SWD may not cause any more problems than common native fruit flies already do. The biggest risk they pose for most varieties may simply be introducing infection to berries that are already injured by splitting, birds, and wasps.

  Watch for SWD from veraison to harvest and consider control measures if berry injuries are observed, to reduce the risk of sour rot in the wine. This University of Minnesota study focused on cold climate hybrid varieties, testing 5 Vinifera varieties and 29 cold climate hybrids. Therefore, more research is needed to learn which Vinifera varieties are more or less susceptible to SWD infestation.

Key Points:

●   Research from University of Minnesota found that spotted wing drosophila (SWD) are unlikely to pierce the skin or infest most grape varieties; only 4 of the 34 cold climate and Vinifera varieties were damaged.

●   Like common native fruit flies, SWD are attracted to injured fruit and can introduce sour-rot causing bacteria that creates acetic acid flaws in the wine.

●   Growers should monitor for grape injury from veraison to harvest, use measures like bird netting to reduce grape injury, and only if needed, apply insecticides that target fruit flies.

●   Dispose of sour-rot infected grapes and do not allow them to be used in wine.

●   Initial berry injury by SWD can predispose the fruit to attraction by other fruit fly species common to Midwest grapes, and thus increase overall damage and risk to juice quality.

●   SWD is attracted to ripe or ripening fruit from veraison to harvest. They are not attracted to green, unripe fruit. Injuries on unripe fruit are likely due to other causes besides SWD.

Read the full study here:

  Ebbenga, DN, EC Burkness, MD Clark, and WD Hutchison. 2021. Risk of Spotted-Wing Drosophila Injury and Associated Increases in Acetic Acid in Minnesota Winegrapes. American Journal of Enology and Viticulture 72(1): 106-112.

For more information on SWD, see University of Minnesota FruitEdge:https://fruitedge.umn.edu/

Preparing for the Exit: Why Winery Owners Need to Develop a Harvest Strategy

By: Edward Webb, Partner, BPM & Kemp Moyer, Partner, BPM

Successfully running a business means overcoming numerous challenges. Owners need to scale the business, find competent employees, deal with regulatory issues like taxes and licenses, and create processes and systems — all while developing a robust customer base and go-to market strategy. For agribusinesses, owners have all these challenges plus whatever Mother Nature decides to throw at them. For California’s wine industry, this includes increasingly unpredictable variables such as drought, flooding, landslide, excessive heat, cold snaps, pests, and the growing risk of wildfires and damage from smoke taint.

  Despite these challenges, several successful business models predominate in California’s wine sector. There are fully integrated vintners that grow their own grapes, ferment them into wine, bottle them, and sell and market the finished product. Some winemakers do not own vineyards and, instead, purchase grapes from various growers before bottling and going to market. Finally, there are virtual wineries that buy completed wine and sell it under a brand name. Each models bring its own unique challenges and opportunities.

  While a few large producers dominate the state’s wine sector, most businesses are family-owned and operated. This can lead to a new and significant challenge: What happens when the owner wants to retire and either hand over or sell the business? When you include a force like a once-in-a-century pandemic, you can understand why many baby boomers — about 10,000 of whom turn 65 every single day — might be looking at an exit strategy right now. But, as you might imagine, exits can be more complicated than just a simple sale when a family is involved.

Planning is Essential

  First and foremost, an owner should start planning a “harvest strategy” well before they are ready to pull the trigger. To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, failing to prepare is preparing to fail. A harvest strategy is a much more detailed plan than a “kitchen table” document.  It goes into great detail on the owner’s goals when they will exit the businesses. It tells the financial and operating story that the next owners need to know. It does not hurt that after more than a decade of quantitative easing, historically low-interest rates and a multi-trillion dollar government spending plan, there is plenty of cash in the system fueling record M&A activity.

  There are various factors that need to be considered in a well-constructed harvest strategy, and it is essential that these succession plans are communicated to all stakeholders, both in the family and with the company’s vital employees or managers. Talking things through will illuminate potential pitfalls, such as the owner’s children not wanting to continue with the business or being unprepared to take on potentially substantial operational challenges. Key employees might want to purchase the operation or refuse to continue working with a new owner. Understanding these dynamics will help when it is time to put the plan in motion and limit any unpleasant surprises. Planning ahead may also allow time to employ tax mitigation strategies.

  The harvest strategy provides detailed instructions on how the business is managed, including all the different procedures and systems used in the business. This document becomes increasingly vital as owners age because of life’s unpredictable nature. An owner could become incapacitated or worse, and the company might not survive without their critical knowledge. Owners should revisit the harvest strategy frequently for updates. Plans made today could be vastly different in five or ten years.

Understanding Value

  Regardless of what an owner chooses — either handing over the business to their children or selling it to someone else — any transaction requires the company to have a fair market valuation. Federal and state tax authorities will demand it, so selling the business to family for a dollar will not work. This valuation will look at all aspects of the company to determine its worth, including its financial performance, assets, inventory, real estate holdings and even the brand’s value. Qualified appraisers are the professionals that will undertake this task and will use different techniques and methods for the equity and/or underlying assets. Sellers should note that having a valuation supported by a third party can help minimize pitfalls during deals, like overvaluing an asset, which can cause potential buyers to walk away or not engage in negotiations.

  Appraisers can use a few different methods to calculate the value of the company’s real estate holdings. However, putting a price on a business is more nuanced than selling a single-family home. A typical technique would be to look at comparable sales of similar properties in that area and base the valuation on the transaction price. This method would take things like the size of the property into account, but not necessarily the cash flow potential of operations, including the production of grapevines.

  The value of the land and the grapevines depend on several factors, ranging from the variety of the plant, age of the vineyard, plant density, production per acre, and the presence of pests like vine mealybugs (VMB) and Virginia Creeper Leafhoppers or diseases like Grapevine Leaf Roll. Other improvements to the land will affect its price, including trellis systems, irrigation and frost protection systems. An appraiser might estimate the fair market value for this asset by calculating how much revenue the land generates based on projected demand, grape price trends, and the yield the land produces. A discounted cash-flow analysis could also be used to factor in variables like projected cash flows, industry cycles and general economic trends. Of course, an appraiser could use a combination of all these methods to determine the asset’s value.

Brand Awareness

  One asset that could be harder to put a value on is the company’s brand. It is an intangible that could be worth more than all of the physical property and inventory of the company. There are three methods to determine a brand’s value, and they are sometimes used together.

•    The first is to calculate the replacement cost of the brand. Basically, this involves formulating how much time and money it would take to re-create the brand from scratch, which are divided into three subsections:

      Brand Identity: Covers all items used to create and develop the brand’s identity, including the name, designing the logo, novel bottle designs, trademark and legal fees, websites and choosing a color palette.

      Brand Awareness: The cost of advertising, promotion and publicity campaigns for the brand to achieve its current level of market awareness.

      Market Position: This is the cost of retaining the business’s current clientele and includes advertising, discounting with distributors, and building relationships with retailers.

•    The second is comparable pricing. This method requires researching the sale of similar brands and using that as the foundation for a valuation. This can be a challenge if there are little or no sales of similar assets.

•    The third and final method is an income-based approach, also known as an “in-use” approach. This involves calculating the future earnings that can be directly tied to the brand to determine its value. The formula looks at everything from income to cash flow to cost savings generated from the brand.

Sell High

  If a winery owner’s family is not interested in maintaining the business, selling is the other option. The sale could be to an industry peer, a current employee, a high-net-worth individual or even a private equity fund. However, certain factors go into the sale and the final price beyond the valuation process discussed earlier.

  Any potential buyer is looking for the ability to generate future cash flow. Operating a winery takes leadership with specialized education and experience. This knowledge includes how to grow and harvest grapes, the manufacturing process, as well as storage of the wine. If the sale is to anyone but an industry peer or employee, this can hobble a deal or result in a lower sales price. As mentioned earlier, having a detailed manual on how to operate the business can help reduce transition issues that may impact price, but locking down an expert to assist with a sale can be essential to getting the maximum return in a sale.

Distressed Resolutions

  All the information above is based on the orderly sale or transfer of the business at a fair market value. That means there is a willing seller and a willing buyer. However, the price could be much lower in a scenario where the owner is forced to sell or liquidate, either through bankruptcy, the sudden death of key people, or litigation. In these situations, engaging an experienced restructuring professional is essential.  Navigating a distressed situation is difficult, doubly so when the business is yours.

  There are multiple variables for owners to consider and plan for as they create their harvest strategy. Being prepared for this transition will help them avoid costly mistakes or address issues early enough in the process to make them non-factors. This planning is essential to maximizing the value of their business. Owners contemplating making this transition would be wise to start the process and create their harvest strategy today.

Edward Webb has over 35 years of experience in consulting and financial management, including specific experience in business restructuring and leadership advisory services. Edward has a Doctorate in Business Administration and currently leads the Corporate Finance Consulting group at BPM, one of the 50 largest public accounting and advisory firms in the country, where he sits on the firm’s Management Committee.

With more than 15 years of experience in complex financial advisory, and a primary focus on valuation services, Kemp Moyer has led hundreds of business and asset valuations in his career with substantial industry experience in technology, life science, professional services, food and beverage, digital assets, manufacturing, and consumer business, among others. A partner in BPM’s Advisory practice and head of the firm’s Valuation team, Kemp’s valuation experience includes M&A and IPO preparation and support, fairness and solvency opinions, and litigation support and dispute resolution, among other high impact analyses.

Why Your Winery’s Failure to Plan is Planning to Fail

By: Quinton Jay

When it comes to creating a roadmap for your winery’s success, it can feel daunting to generate one that is both flexible and remains in line with your winery’s goals as a business. If it’s too flexible, then it will be difficult to keep your planning strategy aligned to your internal initiatives; if not flexible enough, your plan can break apart the first time you encounter an unexpected hurdle.

  The landscape of wineries, and wine as a business, is far different than that of five or ten years ago. Because virtually every piece of the value chain has changed — from distributors and retailers/restaurateurs to consumers and capital providers — new strategies, partnerships, and resources are necessary to ensure your winery’s continued success.

  Each piece of this chain has a unique impact on your winery’s business and its future as a brand. In order to not only survive but thrive amidst these changes and others affecting the wine industry, it is paramount that each winery formulates and implements a multi-faceted plan of success to help carry its business forward into the future. As founding father Benjamin Franklin once said, “a failure to plan is planning to fail.” However, like most aspects of operating a business, creating and enacting a successful roadmap is far easier said than done.

Image Credit: Harvard Business Review

For the past 20 years, I have managed, consulted for, and invested in dozens of wineries and other businesses in the wine industry. Each one of those businesses, regardless of size, location, or consumer market all share one commonality: the most successful ones were those that possessed the foresight to plan for both the best and worst-case scenarios. In order to help you create a solid plan for your winery or wine business, I want to help offer some key steps to get you started.

Step #1: Gather the Facts

  Whatever your business plan will look like, you need to have a clear picture of what your aspirations and goals are for it. The obvious caveat here is that, to do this successfully, you will need to envision what you want your business to look like in the future. Do you simply want to be your own boss or create an environment that is a fun and enjoyable place to work? Do you want to grow your winery into one boasting 1,000,000 cases with wine sold throughout retail chains, or do you want to grow it into one with 5,000 cases with a focus on direct-to-consumer sales?

  Whatever your specific case may be, the first thing you need to do when forming your business’s plan is to gather the facts. This starts by analyzing your business’s segmentation, targeting, and positioning in the marketplace. Segmentation, or the process of grouping customers within a market according to similar needs, characteristics, or behaviors, will provide four key benefits to your business:

●   Opportunities for building and strengthening long-term relationships with key customers and partners;

●   Improved marketing efficiency and effectiveness;

●   A better understanding of the competitive landscape, and;

●   Faster responses to the changing needs of your customers

  Once you have the facts of these segments gathered, the next set of facts you need to acquire are those acquired through consumer market research. By gathering information and trends on your wine business’s target market — including who they are, their likes and dislikes, and whether those markets are growing, declining, or remaining steady — you can better understand their wine consumption statistics, trends by price points, as well as the various demographic and geographic trends of that market.

  After these facts have been answered and gathered, you will have a far clearer picture of your winery’s competitive niche, be it through a specific product (or set of products) or as a brand. From there, begin researching competitors with similar niche offerings. Who are they? What are their price points and pricing strategies? Is their business growing, declining, or remaining steady? What are their strengths and weaknesses, and how will your business compare to theirs?

  Lastly, you will need to gather facts about your market’s current conditions. For example, take a look at your distribution channels to see which ones are consolidating or undergoing management changes. Another example of this is to find out whether your target consumer market is purchasing more wine at restaurants, retail stores, or online. Along with external conditions such as changes in shipping laws or current economic fluctuations, each of these fact sets will play a heavy role in determining what your winery’s business plan will look like.

Step #2: Analyze, Synthesize, and Develop Strategic Initiatives

  After you have accumulated the different sets of factual data affecting your winery or wine business, the next step in formulating your business plan is to synthesize these facts with the strategic initiatives you develop that will affect your business’s marketing, sales, and finances as an operating brand.

Marketing Plan

  As a brand, your winery can be defined as the relationship between your business and its consumers. It is a promise to the consumer to deliver a particular experience each and every time. This is what makes the key element of successfully marketing your business dependent on understanding your customers, including their likes, dislikes, and expectations.

  By defining and analyzing your target market(s), you will be better poised to integrate your gathered facts into your marketing plan. You will also need a clear understanding of what your business’s goals are as an organization, which is where your consumer market research — as well as your competitive data set — comes back into play.

Sales Plan

  Once you know what your business’s market is and who it consists of, you can then begin constructing a sales plan to forecast future sales, revenues, and prices. This plan will also let you identify gaps in your supply chain such as those in your distribution network, forecast additional human resources necessary to make the sales you’ve forecasted, and evaluate opportunities for direct-to-consumer (D2C) sales, and the costs of goods sold (COGS).

Production/Winemaking Plan

  Though it may seem obvious, one integral part of a winery’s plan that often gets overshadowed is its production sales inventory (PSI) model. The PSI model allows you to forecast production and the tons of grapes needed to produce each case of wine made, as well as highlight vintage overages or shortages in sales and changes in release dates. Your PSI should also include a plan for sourcing grapes or bulk wine, as you will need to forecast the number of needed (and excess) tons of grapes both by vintage and product, and will help your business determine strategies in dealing with needs or excess of product.

  Overall, your production plan’s purpose will act as a precursor to your financial plan, as it will grant you the ability to analyze internal capacity and forecast the following factors:

●    Crush, production, and dry goods expenses;

●    Barrel needs;

●    Bottling costs, and;

●    Capital expenditures

  In order to create the clearest picture of these possible, you will need to gather historical data and information on your business. This historical data will likewise play a key role in forming your business’s financial plan.

Financial Plan

  When gathering and analyzing your business’s historical data, you will want to consider factors such as your historical crush and production expenses which include your COGS. Keep in mind that salaries, benefits, supplies, repairs/maintenance, utilities and rent, as well as depreciation all play a part in calculating your COGS. Along with this, your business’s packaging, bottling, and warehousing costs will also factor into your COGS value.

  Now that you have a clearer picture of your business’s COGS, as well as its sales and marketing plan, you can get started on formulating your financial plan. This will help you summarize your gross revenue, price support, EBITDA (operating profit), and net income, as well as craft stronger balance sheets and cash flow statements to better understand your business’s profitability by its products sold.

  Along with these factors, your financial plan will also need to include an income statement to show your business’s operational performance over time, a breakeven statement to show the volume of revenue from sales to balance the sum of its expenses, and a product profitability statement to compare your revenues COGS, and gross profit per case to ultimately determine which products are generating the most profit for your business.

  Each one of these individual plans is meant to help form concise and easily understood strategic initiatives for your winery or wine business. Together, they act as the foundation for creating and implementing those initiatives, as well as helping to determine which initiatives are meant for short-term or long-term business growth.

Image Credit: Bacchus Consulting Group

Step #3: Aggregate Into the Business Plan

  Still with me here? Great — now that we’ve covered each crucial element to your winery’s plan, the next step is to outline that plan in a way that is easily digestible for you, your core team, your partners, and/or investors. As an example, a general outline for your business plan will appear as follows:

I.      Executive Summary

II.    Business Description

III.   Marketing Plan

IV.   Sales Plan

V.     Winemaking/Vineyard Operations Plan

VI.   Management and Organization

VII.  Finances

VIII. Appendixes

  Incorporating all functional plans of your winery or wine business into one unified document is where the results of each prior phase gets pulled together. This business plan will serve as the guiding document for your business’s entire organization, as it coordinates each sub-plan together to prepare them for execution.

  When aggregating each sub-plan into your unified business plan, remember to collectively review your business’s strategic initiatives and incorporate them into the business plan according to each initiative’s specific function to ensure that your business’s structure — including its capital structure and financing — are geared for long-term growth and success.

Step #4: Develop Tactics and the Operating Plan

  The last key step in forming a solid plan for your winery or wine business is to develop tactics and its operating plan. Though similar to a business plan, your operating plan is less an outline for your business as you envision it in the future and more a roadmap for how you will get it there.

  As a rule of thumb, the tactics you create for your business must include (and clearly answer) the following criteria:

●   What will be done?

●   When will it be done?

●   Who will get it done?

●   How do these tactics define our success and how that success will be measured?

  This is the point in planning where your key performance indicators (KPIs), otherwise known as the metrics used to measure your business’s success internally, become a vital element of your business’s future success or failure. If you haven’t already created KPIs use the SMART method:

●   S: Specific

●   M: Measurable

●   A: Actionable

●   R: Realistic

●   T: Time-bound

  Each metric used to measure your business’s success should contain a logical sequence of tasks, goals, and milestones, and should take into account your possession of the right resources and relationships to carry your organization forward through periods of growth.

  With these final elements outlined, you can now incorporate all of your strategic initiatives and tactics into one final plan: your operating plan. This plan will serve as your business’s roadmap and a working document for each strategic initiative, and must also contain each actionable tactic listed as a supporting factor to those initiatives which will help you achieve your goals.

Concluding Thoughts

  There is no single business or operating plan that universally supports each winery or wine business operating today. In order to create the clearest and strongest plans possible, it is your responsibility as a business founder or owner to understand your business inside and out. Once you do, you will be better positioned to formulate and integrate a plan that serves your unique business and its goals for continued success and future growth.

The Ins & Outs of Barrel Care, Inspection, and Tracking

By: Gerald Dlubala

A lot of love, time, and work goes into a winemaker’s final product. But there’s also a lot of money and equity tied up in the barrels that hold, age, and nurture that wine. Barrel inspections help protect your product and livelihood by revealing potential leakage areas in the barrel along with any cracks, gaps, or over-toasting, which can directly or indirectly contribute to spoilage, foul aromas, or an undesirable taste in your wine. The stave and head joints should be narrow and tight, with solidly fastened hoops and a tapered bunghole. Bung holes are a common source of spoilage and contamination, and those with cracks emanating from them can be an unwanted source of excessive oxidation.

Storage and Use:

NEW BARRELS

  New, empty barrels can be stored indefinitely when regularly maintained and kept in cool, humid conditions to lessen the possibility of shrinkage, preferably in the 55°F (13°C) range with 65-75% humidity. Prepping for storage includes a thorough, clean water rinse and complete drainage before performing a Sulfur purge and bung insertion. In addition, routine checks on Sulfur levels must occur to make sure the levels remain consistent.

  Before filling with wine, the stored barrels must be swelled to seal any minor cracks that could cause leaks leading to oxidation and potential mold growth. If Sulfur purging was used in the storage process, release the gas and give the barrel an additional warm water rinse before swelling. Fill the barrel within 20% of its total volume using clean, hot water. Insert the bung and flip and rotate the barrel looking for signs of leakage or agitate the barrel for accelerated swelling until there are no more signs of any leakage. Thoroughly drain the barrel and let it dry and cool down before use. But if leaks are still evident, an overnight swell may be needed, which entails filling the barrel and soaking it overnight. Any leaks should swell shut and stop leaking after a few hours or at the most after a couple of days. Never let a long soak go more than 36 hours without changing the water inside due to the potential for mold growth. When the leaking stops, drain water with the bung side down, and after complete drainage, it is ready for use. If an overnight swelling process doesn’t work, the barrel is likely unfit for use.

Used Barrels Need Different Care

  Increasingly, used barrels are only water rinsed before being used for wine storage because the previous contents can be a desired addition to the flavor profile of the wine. Used barrels can also be rinsed several times and stored empty after being purged with Sulfur. Sulfur levels must be checked monthly on the stored barrels and replenished as needed. The stored barrels will shrink over time and need to be swelled again before filling. An alternative to the traditional swelling practices includes filing the barrels with a Sulfur-citric holding solution that promotes sterility and helps promote swelling and shrinkage control. The downside to using a Sulfur citric solution is that it strips the natural wood extract flavor and the desirable oak flavor properties. So it is not recommended for use on new barrels or those less than a year old. The Sulfur citric solution strips natural wood extract flavor. The use of holding solutions requires thorough rinsing procedures before a winemaker can reuse the barrel.

Spoiler Alert

  When wood comes in contact with liquids, especially wine, it becomes a natural breeding ground for bacteria and spoilage mechanisms. If your wines have pH levels above 3.7pH combined with low sulfite levels or residual sugar, lactic acid bacteria can cause spoilage and produce a sour milk taste.

  Acetobacter (Acetic Acid Bacteria) causes the alcohol in your wine to convert to acetic acid. When combined with the deposits left due to poor rinsing of barrels or lack of or improper Sulfur purging, Acetic acid forms ethyl acetate, the ingredient used in nail polish remover. It frequently happens with wines that oxidize and have headspace, producing the familiar vinegar aroma.

  Brettanomyces Yeasts in your barrels mean spoilage. They metabolize very low sugar levels in wine or the cellulose sugars in the wood due to insufficient Sulfur purging of stored barrels or the inadequate presence of sulfites in the barrel. Brettanomyces Yeasts produce an aroma reminiscent of a well-stocked medicine cabinet.

  Penicillium mold is one of the most common concerns for winemakers, usually originating through stave or head joints or around the bunghole. Hard to eradicate once it gains a foothold, penicillium mold causes foul aromas when in contact with the wine.

Keep Track and Maintain Consistent Barrel Information

  When maintaining and storing your barrels, a system for keeping track and maintenance schedules can be quite helpful, and a winemaker should choose a system based on their specific needs and budget limitations. Limited budgets can make practical use of barcode-based barrel tracking systems that provide inventory and location data for their in-house barrels. If you need more information, like maintenance schedules, barrel history, or tracking information, you may need the benefits of Quick Response (QR) or Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) code technology. Economic factors can lead you to use QR codes for increased data storage with easy read capabilities. However, RFID is a great choice when considering pure efficiency, with passive RFID providing more data storage, faster scanning, and additional location and temperature tracking capabilities over their QR counterparts. With the additional cost of active RFIDs, you can have real-time location data, temperature readings and humidity levels.

  Barcode tracking systems are an option that is associated with most if not all things around us. The familiar series of one-dimensional lines constructed of variable thicknesses encode numbers and characters that provide the object’s unique identification number that links back to a database providing all pertinent inventory, maintenance, and barrel information needed for your winery. Barcode labels are economical and easy to read with handheld devices or available smartphone apps. However, the location of the barcode label is critical to correct readability because the barcode label must be within the sight and allowable parameters of the reader.

  Quick Response (QR) Codes are the pixelated squares scanned from a smartphone camera to send you to another location or web link. They can be combined with GPS functionality for barrel tracking and store up to a hundred times more information than the basic barcode. If needed, once a barrel is assigned to the database, the winemaker can add more specific barrel information. Unfortunately, paper-printed QR codes are susceptible to humid conditions and durability issues. More durable options increase cost, and if Wi-Fi is needed, that can be an issue in wine cellars.

  InnoVint Inc, founded in 2013, is a bud break-to-bottle wine production software company made up of winemakers. Their wine production software optimizes QR codes for wine barrels that are easily scanned on a phone or tablet and allow details on contents, activity, barrel history, and more to be entered. Their QR codes scan well in dirty, wet, or humid conditions and stay with the same vessel for its lifespan while in your cellar, making historical information accessible and easy to retrieve. This information can include things like fill dates or Brix readings for your fermentation tanks. Using InnoVint’s software, the QR codes can be printed or reprinted on demand.

  Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) uses radio waves to track objects and their unique data. You won’t need a direct line of sight for this type of tracking, and it scans faster than pointing at a barcode or label. Using Active RFID brings the ability to read from up to 100 feet away with more memory. The RFID tags transmit a continuous signal with real-time statistics. More size and memory bring additional tracking and information functionality, including temperature, humidity levels, and real-time location statistics. But, because they are battery-powered, they are bulky and more costly.

  Passive RFID codes, on the other hand, are smaller, more compact, and not reliant on an enclosed battery, making them more economical and longer-lasting than active RFID tags. Passive RFID tags can be inlaid into sticker form or attached like tags, making them more durable and a good fit for wine cellars or barrel storage areas. They are stable under diverse conditions while having the ability to record both interior and exterior temperatures. Passive RFID has more limited data storage capacity but is compatible with real-time location systems for immediate tracking capability. Additionally, available location and temperature data allow variation tracking in temperature versus barrel volume fluctuations and free SO2.

BarrelWise: Enhanced Technology For Wine Production And Analysis

  Barrel management is time-consuming and manually labor-intensive, especially for craft wineries. BarrelWise is a project initially conceived and targeted for another industry by a group of University of British Columbia (UBC) students, including Jason Sparrow, now CEO, and Artem Bocharovaz, Director of Sales. By listening to and addressing winemakers’ concerns, they’ve taken their idea and created a system for winemakers that incorporates specialized bungs and a unique hose cart for each wine barrel that allows winemakers to take measurements and top off the barrel with a straightforward action. After successful trials with several wineries fully outfitted with BarrelWise bungs, BarrelWise is building and adding sensing operations to their units.

  Smaller wineries can more easily test all of their barrels for free SO2 levels, but Sparrow said that higher producing wineries test as few as five to ten percent simply due to time constraints. In addition, wine barrels routinely have an evaporative loss that may require topping off. With the BarrelWise system, the barrels can stay in place and provide data through their head sensors, allowing winemakers to top off, test, and correct and SO2 levels simultaneously, saving labor and time. By testing every barrel, a winemaker reduces the inherent risk in producing larger batches of wine. Critical decisions are made based on accurate data from each barrel, giving the winemaker more control, confidence, and efficiency in their decision-making. Individual barrels can produce significant variations, and BarrelWise helps the winemaker get each barrel right through easy measurements, accurate data and consistent tracking

Controlling Those Pesky Pests and Debilitating Diseases In Your Vineyard

By: Gerald Dlubala

Pest and disease management are always on the minds of vineyard managers and grape growers. Because of that, it’s also on the mind of Don Yadon, the Southern California Sales Manager for Sym-Agro Inc, serving the horticultural and agricultural markets with a comprehensive assortment of fertilizers, fungicides, biologicals and pesticides.

  “Because of the potential damage to vines and fruit by the end of the growing season, it’s an annual ritual for both growers and field consultants to focus on Vine Mealy Bugs, Leafhoppers and a trio of mites, including the Two-Spotted, Willamette and Pacific Spider mites,” said Yadon. “Under favorable conditions, mite pest populations can grow exponentially in a short time and overwhelm the vine’s ability to manufacture downstream carbohydrates, leading to less marketable fruit. Mealybug and leafhopper populations have a similar effect but can also devastate fruit appearance and quality.”

  Sym-Agro offers an Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) certified solution labeled Cinnerate, an emulsified Cinnamon oil that controls pest mites, mealybugs, and leafhoppers by interfering with the pest respiration system through either physical contact or fuming activity. By its nature, Cinnerate is environmentally and plant safe, working in concert with critical beneficial predators to keep pest populations below threshold levels. In addition, it is a great companion when used with mating disruption products. Cinnerate can be tank-mixed with narrow range oils and can be applied with sulfur if desired.

  “Cinnerate is effectively used with both organic and conventional grapes as a successful and sustainable solution to control pests,” said Yadon. “Applications of Cinnerate are most effective when starting early in crop development before canopy become dense. Cinnerate controls pests through contact, so adequate coverage is paramount for success. Growers using multiple applications of Cinnerate during the season are experiencing less disease and insect pressure, higher quality fruit, and a more robust beneficial predator resume. And early applications naturally result in lower pest populations even before the availability of beneficial predators.”

  Debilitating crop disease is another issue that has to be addressed early. Yadon said that future trends in the wine industry would likely include increases in mechanical field practices, including harvesting and pruning. These increased practices will transform basic vine architecture and impact both insect and disease behavior patterns. Additionally, changing weather patterns combined with the possibility of increasing heat and accompanying water restrictions will impact vines, increase trunk disease pressure,  lessen foliar disease pressure, and impact insect populations and species.

  “Sym-Agro offers a robust lineup of fungicides and bactericides for use on all types of grape crops that includes multi-site mode of action compounds with very low resistance and excellent crop safety,” said Yadon. “Powdery Mildew probably causes the most damage, followed by Botrytis and Sour Rot, so growers dedicate significant resources to assure disease-free grapes. Powdery Mildew is especially problematic, so control starts at budbreak to knock down spores that overwinter and stop the disease from gaining an early foothold. The best Powdery Mildew strategy is preventative and flexible enough to include a curative if an expression starts to develop. Resistance management is also important, so early applications with a multi-site mode of action fungicide with low resistance are the best guard against resistance later in the year. Conditions for favorable Botrytis growth usually show up later in the growing season, but early-season treatments from budbreak to early bloom are warranted if necessary.”

  Sym-Ago’s Instill copper bactericide/fungicide is an ideal choice for budbreak treatments to reduce overwintering Powdery Mildew spores and Phomopsis, a type of fungus. Instill is a low-dose multi-chelated copper that protects new bud tissue. It has 14-21-day protection and is rain safe in just a few hours. Tank mixing Instill copper with sulfur at budbreak enhances control. Instill can safely be used all season long for preventative control of Powdery Mildew, Botrytis, Downey Mildew and Sour Rot.

  Along with being an option for mite, mealybug, and leafhopper control, Cinnerate is also an OMRI-certified replacement for oxidizers or potassium carbonates and functions as a contact curative fungicide for Powdery Mildew. Additionally, Cinnerate is an effective pre-harvest treatment for post-harvest fruit quality in table grapes.

  “And now, our growers have an additional and powerful Powdery Mildew and Botrytis fungicide to use in conventional and organic grapes called ProBlad Verde,” said Yadon. “It comes from the Lupin plant as a seed protection protein and has a multi-site mode of action with meager resistance potential. ProBlad Verde is most effective when used as a preventative, providing 7-14-day protection, and can be positioned as a stand-alone or with other fungicides. Due to its curative and preventative action, it works well early to keep the disease in check and works well after the onset of ripening to keep fruit disease-free.”

  Yadon tells The Grapevine Magazine that Sym-Agro dedicates significant resources to test and validate the efficacy of their products, paying very close attention specifically to offering products that do not mark, spot or damage the fruit. As a result, Sym-Agro offers value-added products with proven, successful, plant-safe patterns of use that result in superior formulations and effective, practical applications.

  “A high percentage of the products we offer are biochemicals or biological and therefore plant-friendly,” said Yadon. “The grower’s plants and trees do not have to manipulate or metabolize any chemicals because they are not alien to the plant. Our products leverage secondary plant defenses that add to plant health, disease, and insect control. In the future, you’ll see an increase in the use of beneficial predators, less dependence on chemical pesticides, and increased use of plant-friendly pesticides and sustainable products that stimulate a plant’s internal defenses via ISR (Integrated Stress Response) and SAR (Systemic Acquired Response) pathways. Fewer broad-spectrum insecticides will be in demand, and we’ll likely see an increased demand for anti-stress products like Sym-Agro’s ECKOSIL to strengthen plant cell walls and make it more difficult for pests to penetrate leaf surfaces. We will also likely see expanded use of mating disruption products in pest control.”

Suterra: Using Mating Disruption To Deter Vine Mealybug’s Destructiveness

  “Vineyard managers tell us that their biggest pest challenge is the increasing spread of the vine mealybug (VMB),” said Emily Symmes, Ph.D., Senior Manager of Technical Field Services for Suterra, a global leader in sustainable pest control. “The vine mealybug is a triple threat because it not only infests and feeds on the fruit resulting in unmarketable bunches, it also spreads grapevine leafroll viruses that eventually kill otherwise healthy vines. In addition, vine mealybugs also produce a sticky residue called honeydew that leads to the contamination of clusters with sooty mold, degrading the value of the crop.”

  Vine mealybug is the primary insect concern because it is an invasive species that also happens to be the most aggressive of the mealybug species that attack grapes. It has more generations, produces more honeydew, and is the only mealybug that spreads to all plant parts, from roots to upper canopy leaves. As an invasive species, there are fewer natural checks and balances in place to help mitigate populations.

  “While there are a few chemical management options available, the more these are used, the higher the likelihood that insecticide resistance will develop,” said Symmes. “The good news is that there are Integrated Pest Management (IPM) options for VMB management that do not pose a risk of resistance development, including pheromone mating disruption products, ant control, and natural enemies such as parasitoids and predators.”

  Suterra has a long history of innovation. Along with helping growers by using unique pheromone-based products to protect crops with zero harmful residues, Suterra was the first company to manufacture products that lower the population of the vine mealybugs by disrupting their mating habits. In addition, their CheckMate® products reduce damage and extend the lifespan of conventional tools by helping fight insecticide resistance and contribute to maximizing the efficacy of insecticide inputs where needed.

  “Mating disruption products have now been shown for decades to be a reliable Integrated Pest Management (IPM) technique,” said Symmes. “The wine and grape growing industry is incredibly progressive and sustainably-minded. As a result, we are seeing more regions establish and take steps to collaborate on programs for area-wide mating disruption, with its use increasing dramatically year over year as growers realize the benefits and return on investment.”

  Suterra’s CheckMate® VMB-F and CheckMate® VMB-XL are synthetic replicas of the vine mealybug sexual reproduction pheromone. Both CheckMate® products can be used to complement any spray program and are compatible with all other integrated pest management IPM tools, from beneficial natural enemies to conventional insecticides. The flexibility and compatibility of the products have led to widespread adoption of mating disruption for vine mealybug since Suterra first registered them.

  CheckMate® VMB-Fis a sprayable pheromone most often applied using conventional vineyard spray equipment and can be tank-mixed with many common agrochemicals. Symmes said they’ve seen aerial applications via drone and helicopter depending on the time of year and vineyard access. Most will use standard spray equipment during the season, typically spraying about every 30 days, depending on the local climate, amount of pest activity, and grape variety. No additional education or licensing requirements exist for the CheckMate® VMB-F application beyond what you’d have for any insecticide application.

  CheckMate® VMB-XL is a membrane dispenser. These are easily attached once per season to the cordon or trellis in a uniform pattern using a specially designed hook attached to the dispenser, allowing them to emit pheromone all season long. CheckMate® VMB-XL is approved for organic production by the EPA’s National Organic Program and is popular with organic and conventional producers who prefer to hang this once per season over intermittent spraying. Based on recent trials in Europe, CheckMate® VMB-XL is the longest-lasting VMB dispenser on the market.

  “By hanging VMB-XL dispensers or spraying VMB-F microcapsules, vineyard managers confuse flying male vine mealybugs so they cannot find females to mate with,” said Symmes. “While naturally reducing the pest’s overall populations and thereby decreasing crop damage, our solutions are safe for all of the beneficial species as well. However, it is important to note that although area-wide mating disruption is not necessary for mating disruption to have great impacts within individual vineyards, coordinated efforts in monitoring and disruption would benefit the entire industry. In many permanent crops, there is a desire to move toward automation when it comes to monitoring which is understandable given labor issues and advances in technology that show potential for this approach. However, fully comprehensive monitoring and visual scouting programs remain the gold standard when we engage with growers. Trap-based monitoring is only one of several approaches to gain the information necessary to develop an effective IPM program, especially for invasive pests like vine mealybug.”

Sustainability Is Key To Long-Term Pest Control

  “We see that most vineyard owners measure sustainability in generations,” said Symmes. “When you’re the fifth generation in your family to grow on land, no one cares more about the sustainability of that land than you. Suterra partners with growers looking to reduce the adverse impacts of pest control in their vineyard and on the planet by avoiding the ever-increasing applications of insecticides. Sustainable pest control, especially species-specific tools like CheckMate® VMB, allows growers to effectively reduce populations and damage while eliminating all non-target species and adverse environmental impacts, leading to healthier waterways, protection of pollinators and other non-target species, and a reduction in carbon emissions from spray equipment. That means improving biodiversity and protecting pollinators, topics that are important to the fruit and wine consumer. It also helps achieve greater worker safety for farmworkers and vineyard managers and eliminates any concern over harmful crop residues.”

Software for Wineries: High-Tech Launches Wineries to New Heights in Productivity

By: Cheryl Gray

Wineries worldwide use technology to their advantage when it comes to saving one of their most important assets––time. The right software applications simplify collecting, sorting and maximizing data. The type of software to use often comes down to the winery’s size, its specific needs and finding the best return on investment.

VinNOW

  Wineries with small budgets but big plans can turn to VinNow of Mesa, Arizona. The company was founded in 1999 by software engineer Ted Starr. VinNOW is designed to operate in either a single, stand-alone computer environment or a network of multi-POS operations and multiple locations.

  “VinNOW runs securely on your computer, not in the cloud. This ensures that if you lose your internet, you still have access to all your data and can still make sales. Having the program and your data on your local network also allows for better data security and gives you the peace of mind that you can do your business no matter what,” said Starr. 

“VinNOW is one program, using one database, that stays in your local system’s control. This is the advantage of having been created by winery owners: Knowing the winery environment and challenges.”

  With 40 years of industry experience, Starr and his team have poured their expertise into developing a versatile software program to suit wineries of any size. Starr added that customer support comes from a team knowledgeable in both software engineering and what wineries need to maximize production. 

  “VinNOW is comprised of professionals with many years of experience in both computer technology and the wine industry. Our expert team is intimately familiar with a winery’s needs and has the technical knowledge to offer and support our specialized integrated system for winery management. VinNOW was created by winery owners who are also software developers and have decades of hands-on winery experience. VinNOW offers a personalized and specialized approach that is dedicated to, and in touch with, the business needs of a winery,” Starr told The Grapevine Magazine.

  “VinNOW is dedicated to providing a quality, comprehensive software application specifically engineered to meet the needs of the wine industry. We provide personalized live customer service and support and pride ourselves in remaining a hands-on, efficient company. This means that when you contact us, you will be dealing with someone who understands your needs and can directly and personally handle any question.

  “With VinNOW, you don’t just receive a software package. You enter a relationship with a software company that has been in the wine business for over 22 years and is directly interested in the health and prosperity of wineries. Should you need us, our support team is available seven days a week to assist you with VinNOW. Our VinNOW support team is always eager to answer your questions and assist you with what you want to accomplish.”

  VinNOW, Starr said, is a fully integrated software system that is ideal for managing inventory, customer data, purchase records, tasting room and internet sales. The software program also manages email marketing and wine clubs with automatic credit card processing. For shipping needs, VinNOW generates UPS, FedEx and GLS shipping labels. VinNOW also allows wineries to track those shipments. It integrates with other software programs such as QuickBooks, Vertical Response, Constant Contact, VinoShipper and ShipCompliant. It also can export information to other email systems.   

  Another innovation from VinNow is VinTracker, a bulk wine tracking module. Starr says that VinTracker allows wineries to track products, everything from what wine is in which containers to what work has been performed on-site.

  Starr said that VinNow allows its winery clients to provide customers with targeted messaging rather than generic correspondence, which is vital to keeping and expanding a winery’s client roster. COVID-19 made this function a critically important tool. 

  “One of the challenges wineries have in a COVID-19 environment is keeping in touch with their customers in order to maintain and keep interest in that business relationship. VinNOW excels at data reporting and allowing a winery to target market instead of having to send the same generic message to everyone,” said Starr. “With VinNOW, wineries can create lists for an almost unlimited set of data points. For instance, you have the ability to create a list of people who have purchased above a certain dollar level, a specific varietal, has purchased futures in the past or are just on an interest list or in a specific range of zip codes. 

  “You can then refine your search to target market customers such as those associated or never associated with a wine club, or even inactive wine club members. Any data element that VinNOW captures can be used to create a specific marketing list to meet your needs.”

Dimensional Insight

  Helping wineries keep in touch with their customers is also a focus of Dimensional Insight, in business since 1989. Headquartered in Burlington, Massachusetts, Dimensional Insight is an analytics and data management firm specializing in integrating data from different sources and displaying the information wineries need in whatever way they need to see it. The company’s trademark Diver Gateway product allows access to data on any device. Its applications are specific to the wine industry for both wineries and distributors. Nancy Berkowitz serves as Industry Vice President.

  “Users of our software have the flexibility to do self-service reporting and analytics while ‘diving to the lowest detail’ from dynamic dashboards and scorecards. As a result, they are able to get unprecedented insight into the state of their business, and can make better, more informed decisions that help drive increased sales, bottom lines and customer satisfaction,” said Berkowitz.

  With COVID-19 mandates changing the wine industry, not to mention overall industry-driven shifts, wineries have to focus and pivot quickly. Berkowitz told The Grapevine Magazine that Dimensional Insight can help them do just that for data management and analysis.

  “In this economic climate, where there are fundamental shifts in how people are buying products and what they’re buying, it’s most important for wineries to look at not only the bottom line but also any associated numbers. What is changing? Are these short-term changes or long-term changes? To best assess this, wineries need to look at their outlier data to see what the causes for these changes are and determine how to handle them,” Berkowitz said.

  “It can be hard to pinpoint some of this data when you have huge data sets that pull together many diverse sources. That’s why we have an assisted analytics tool that uses AI to proactively look for these outliers or different data points and helps bring these issues forward for analysts. Wineries should make sure they look at not only sales and pricing data but also all data affecting the changes––operations, marketing, finance, economics and more. Then they can focus on short-term and long-term bottom-line goals based on what they discover.”

  Dimensional Insights also offers its winery and distributor clients other unique options and partnerships to expand their businesses.  

  “We also collect daily invoice level data from distributors for wineries through our BeverageLink division. Dimensional Insight has partnerships with the NielsenIQ as part of the Nielsen Connected Partners program and the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association for data relating to sales, pricing and more.” 

  Berkowitz said that Dimensional Insight looks to the future of winery software to increase its use of artificial intelligence and cloud services because of the large amount of data to be handled. 

  “Artificial intelligence is a focus for software and technology. This must be taken for what it is and must truly be understood by the wineries. Not just the results, but why those are the results of the AI software. Otherwise, the results can’t be trusted. Wineries are moving to the cloud for better service and lower costs. We offer the Dimensional Insight cloud for this purpose. All in all, we see technology continuing to move toward better data integration so wineries can capitalize on the data available such as eCommerce and more.” 

Innovint

  Napa Valley’s InnoVint, founded by Ashley Leonard in 2013, combines the expertise of winemakers and Silicon Valley software engineers with a focus on providing winery clients with mobile, flexible and intuitive winery management software designed to save time and streamline the production process. InnoVint is 100% cloud-based, which means that wineries can access the software wherever they are on any device. The company touts ease of use, saying that small wineries can use the applications in less than an hour. InnoVint offers training and an online support center.

  Experts agree that winery software will continue to be a critical tool for successfully expanding a winery business by keeping a connection with the most crucial element of that success—customers.