Email: The Biggest Tool in Your Digital Marketing Toolbox

By: Susan DeMatei, WineGlass Marketing

It is 2019. We shouldn’t be having the conversation about whether you should email or not. If you feel you are bothering your customers, then the problem is with your content, not the delivery vehicle. Email is not dead, in fact it’s as relevant as ever. The accompanying infographic to this article contains what we found to be the most diagnostic recent statistics, including the facts that over three quarters of us prefer emails and the sweet spot seems to be around an email every other week.

The conversation now should be about how our customers want to read emails, how they consume the content, and how emails should be integrated into our communication channel with our customers.

Typical questions we discuss with our clients are: What is the best design for an email? How much copy is too much? How many emails should you send, and how often? What day of the week and time of day is the most likely to reach your customers.

Unfortunately, the answer for most of these is, “it depends”, as you can look at your own database’s open and click through rates to determine what type of content they want, and when they want to receive it. But there are some overall guidelines for best practices to follow.

THE MOBILITY EFFECT ON DESIGN

When we first started using email regularly in the workplace, it was before the PalmPilot, BlackBerry, or iPhone. We viewed emails on computers at our desks. Emails took the place of memos, which took the place of letters––so formal, long format text was the norm. With the increasingly fast pace of technology adoption, our lines between work and non-work on a computer have blurred considerably. We used to read work emails at work and personal emails at home. Now, even though you may have separate work and personal email addresses, they go to the same mail account and everything is mixed.

The speed and ease of glancing at email on mobile devices has revolutionized how we consume email, and we are reading more emails than ever. According to the 2018 Deloitte Mobile Consumer Usage Survey, the average consumer checks their phone 52 times per day.1  We use our personal phones at work and our work phones at home. We have access to email 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and there are few times when we are unable to open an email.

With over half of our emails read on mobile devices, we have changed the way we interact with promotional emails, and with this, our expectations have changed. We expect to be able to see the content on our desktops, tablets, and phones. This is what “mobile optimization” means. On mobile devices we require buttons to show large enough to be able to click them, we need to see the picture tightly cropped and close up,  and we expect to read the copy without having to scroll sideways. Remember that email is a tool to drive traffic to your website to purchase. If the email cannot be read on a mobile device, 80% of us are more likely to delete it than to save it to be opened on another device later. With people looking at their phones 50 times a day or more, there are multiple opportunities to capture their attention.

Paying attention to design in such a small space is critical to click through rates. While people are looking at their phones and therefore email more than ever, our attention spans are reduced. An email must be clear and concise while effectively communicating the desired message. As the old saying goes, a picture tells 1000 words. We recommend telling the story with images and a clear call to action rather than large amounts of copy.

Because emails are opened on a variety of platforms and devices, a responsive design is critical. Images should adjust to the size of the screen and copy should be limited to the most essential. The call to action must be clear and easy to see, with call to action buttons being the most effective.

Images must load quickly and be appropriate to be viewed on a mobile phone. Many of our clients wish to use full bottle shots in emails, but these do not view well on mobile phones. It is much better to use a tight beauty shot where the label can be clearly seen and read. We find that an image that combines the product, offer, and call to action that is clickable to be effective in increasing click through rates.

MOBILE USAGE DRIVES TIMING

For a long time, the belief was that the best time to send an email is at 10:00 AM on a Tuesday morning, and for the most part that still holds true. But, the overwhelming use of mobile phones to read email has us consuming content at different times and in different ways.

Data from MailChimp and Wordstream suggests that midweek – specifically Tuesday and Thursday are still the best days to send emails. Tuesdays get the most emails opened compared to any other day of the week, although Saturdays may also be a good day to send email for its high open rate, according to data from Experian and analyzed by Customer.io.

Why the conflicting data? While it is imperative that the email can be viewed on a mobile phone, we are still addicted to our computers. The behavior we are starting to exhibit to combine these two is interesting: If we like an email we open on a mobile device we may save it and open it again later. This makes sense if you think about how and when we use our phones. We’re in between meetings (or in a boring meeting) or on the bus or waiting in the sandwich line at lunch and we scan through emails, deleting ones we don’t want to read and saving ones we do. The business emails we deal with during the business day, but leave the personal emails for after work or on the weekend. This is why it makes sense that the largest open rates are reported during the weekday, but click throughs on the weekend.

The time of day is also affected by this complex pattern of consumption. MailChimp confirms with Campaign Monitor that sending emails later in the morning between 10 a.m.–noon will get you the most opens. It looks like the best time to send email is at 10 a.m. Campaign Monitor sums it up by saying that 53% of emails are opened during the workday between 9 a.m.–5 p.m. However, Customer.io found that marketing email opens are highest from 8 p.m.–midnight, with a second peak between 4–8 p.m. Customer.io suggests that while it’s a common practice to check email in the mornings, most people are just beginning their day and may likely avoid email marketing in favor of productivity.

This also supports why these second opens are so likely to result in conversion – because these are the emails we’ve saved. Whether they return to it on their phone or a desktop, they’re back to consider the offer and often click through to your website.

BUT NOTHING IS AS IMPORTANT AS TARGETING AND CONTENT

It should be noted that you can have the most perfectly mobile-friendly email sent at the perfect time, but if the messaging and target aren’t right, it won’t work. When used properly, emails should not tell the consumer everything they need to know, but entice them to your website where they find an appropriate landing page with the content and products from the email. For a consumer to purchase a product from an email they must first open the email, so the subject line is also very important. And some estimate targeting as 50% of the success of your campaign: sending too many emails across all segments can reduce open rates. We recommend using segmentation to reduce the amount of email one consumer receives and to drive engagement by matching the customer with the content they are most interested in.

So don’t be seduced by SMS and shiny digital channels: Email marketing is more important for driving ecommerce than ever. With the increased use of mobile devices, people are opening emails across multiple platforms and during all times of the day and night. With some consideration for mobile devices, you can keep your consumers informed and your email channel sales strong.

Susan DeMatei is the President of WineGlass Marketing, a full-service direct marketing firm working within the wine industry in Napa, California. www.wineglassmarketing.com

Canada Vows to Loosen Federal Barriers to Interprovincial Wine Trade

By: Briana Tomkinson

For almost a century, Canadian wineries have been prevented from shipping their wines direct-ly to customers living in other provinces. After the most recent federal budget announcement earlier this year, however, wine industry leaders say they are cautiously optimistic that Prohibi-tion-era rules restricting trade could soon be relaxed—a move which industry leaders say could be a game-changer for Canada’s many boutique wineries.

In March, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government announced that the 2019 federal budget would remove a requirement that alcohol shipped across provincial borders must be sold or consigned to a provincial liquor authority. According to Canadian Vintners Association presi-dent Dan Paszkowski, if the proposed rule change passes in June, it would remove the last federal barrier to internal trade in alcohol.

The only catch? Provincial governments still have the power to make their own rules regulating the sale and distribution of alcohol within their borders.

The last time the feds relaxed their rules, only a handful of provinces chose to follow suit. In 2012, the federal government relaxed certain restrictions on interprovincial trade that had been in place since 1928, officially allowing Canadians to bring alcohol across borders for personal use. However, Paszkowski said only three provinces—British Columbia, Manitoba and Nova Scotia—chose to update their regulations to allow residents to ship wine to their doorsteps.

In other provinces like Alberta, for example, Paszkowski said citizens can bring in as much wine as they can carry on their person. However, it remains illegal to have even one bottle cou-riered to your home from a winery in B.C. or Ontario. Canadians who flout the rules risk fines, and even jail time in some instances, he said.

“It’s the 21st Century, and yet we’re still restricted from the full use of wine clubs, the internet, and social media because we could only sell to people who reside in the province,” Paszkow-ski said.

Although online ordering from wineries or wine clubs is uncommon, polling has shown that a strong majority of Canadian consumers would like to be able to have wine shipped to their doorsteps. A Gandalf Group poll commissioned by the Canadian Vintners Association in 2017 found 87% of consumers believed Canadians should be allowed to order wine to their home from a winery.

In Canada, the vast majority of wine consumers shop at provincially run liquor stores. In the poll, between 80% and 93% of customers said they bought their wine from a government-mandated liquor outlet. The one provincial exception was Alberta, where only 15% buy from a government-run store, and 80% buy from a privately owned and operated liquor store.

Only 19% of Canadians said they bought wine directly from wineries, though this option was more popular in British Columbia, where 27% said they did so. Only about 2% of customers said they shopped online at a government-run online store, private online store or wine club. Very few consumers, just 9%, were even aware of the option of ordering wine directly from a winery.

Although government-run liquor stores have a virtual monopoly on sales, domestically produ-ced wine has little to no representation on store shelves. In seven out of 10 provinces, Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) wines—a designation that officially verifies the origin and quality of Ca-nadian-made wine—have less than a 3% market share. In Quebec, the market share for VQA wine is less than one percent at the province’s Société des Alcools du Québec (SAQ) stores. “We don’t even have a category at the SAQ,” Paskowski said.

If the provinces do come on board, the impact on Canadian wineries could be significant. Cur-rently, about four million tourists visit Canada’s 700-plus wineries every year, Paszkowski said. Those who like the wine often want to ship a few bottles home, but under the current regula-tions, wine producers are prevented from doing so.

“Wine is one of the only products in the country where you visit the retailer, and they want it delivered, and you have to say no. You can order a gun from another province, but you can’t order a bottle of wine shipped in another province,” Paszkowski said.

It’s not just sales to tourists that Canadian wineries are missing out on either. According to Sta-tistics Canada, most of the wine sold in Canada, about 74% of reds and almost 60% of whites, is imported from other countries, while Canadian-made wine only represents about 12% of the premium wine market.

“The government’s very interested in the export market, but when you only own 12% of your market, well, we can’t really turn our back on Canada. Our opportunity to export is when our market share is greater,” Paskowski said.

Wine Clubs

Although online wine sales and wine clubs are only 2% of the market in Canada, they are an important sales channel for boutique wineries, especially those whose wines are not stocked in provincially run liquor stores.

Ontario’s Kwäf wine club, for example, has become an important sales channel for many small wineries in the province. Club subscribers receive six sommelier-selected Ontario wines deliv-ered to their homes every three months for $125 to $138 CAD per box. The club ships only to subscribers living in Ontario and the handful of provinces that have relaxed restrictions on in-terprovincial wine trade.

However, according to Director of Business-to-Consumer Operations, Amber Fountain, even if Kwäf could ship anywhere in Canada, the company would still focus on promoting Ontario wines to Ontarians. The foot traffic from wine tourism is a vital spinoff benefit for Kwäf’s winer-ies. Most of its customers are in the greater Toronto area, within easy road trip distance to many of the wineries that supply Kwäf.

“Us sending their wine across the country isn’t really going to help them get people to their door,” Fountain said. “We want people to become fans of our wineries.”

The almost five-year-old company, which was recently acquired by Calgary-based alcohol e-commerce company Blacksquare, has succeeded on the strength of the mutually beneficial partnerships it has cultivated with local wineries, Fountain said.

Kwäf promises customers it will send only “good” wine, so the company’s sommeliers spend a lot of time sourcing and tasting new wines, searching for tastes that are new and exciting. Kwäf makes a special effort to seek out small-scale producers whose wines are not carried by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) stores, even purchasing the full production of a particular wine to offer as an exclusive release for members.

Partner wineries often include gifts and value-add to encourage subscribers to visit in person, which can help cement a winery’s relationships with their customers. Tasting passes, dis-counts to restaurants, exclusive winery experience tours, and opportunities to meet the wine-makers are important perks of the club. The ultimate goal, Fountain said, is to help cultivate a greater appreciation for local wines, particularly those customers won’t find on liquor store shelves.

“We understand our customers won’t only order wine through us for day-to-day consumption. It’s meant to supplement people’s enjoyment of wine. It’s more for exploration, to try new wines,” Fountain said.

Perhaps one day, the rest of Canada will be able to enjoy exploring new tastes shipped directly to their doorsteps as well.

Dirty Laundry Vineyard: Va Va Voom

By: Adrienne Roman

The Canadian Pacific Railway was built between Eastern Canada and British Columbia in the late 1800s. Thousands of Chinese laborers were contracted to work under extremely dangerous conditions. One of these brave men, Sam Suey, decided to abandon his unrelenting position on the railroad in favor of opening his own Chinese Laundry Service in lower Summerland, B.C.

With the nearby wharf home to an abundance of local freight and passenger traffic from the Okanagan sternwheelers and plenty of folks circulating in dirty clothes, Suey’s enterprise swiftly gained popularity. The downstairs served as a laundromat, while upstairs clients were free to drink, gamble, and as the story goes, enjoy the company of a few scantily clad women. The locals managed to keep the house of ill repute “hush hush.”

Honoring Summerland’s history, Dirty Laundry Vineyard brings an air of intrigue to British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley wine region. With a collection of cheeky names like Dangerous Liaison, Secret Affair, and Bordello, Dirty Laundry’s wines are cloaked in mystery, a pinch of rebellion, and a healthy dash of naughty.

However, there’s no secret when it comes to the quality of the wines they produce. Their Hush Blush is an award-winning blend of Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Franc. They create the blush using the saignee process. During early fermentation, the Pinot juice is removed, and the Merlot and Cabernet undergo a cold soak to enhance their color before pressing.

Gold medals have been awarded to Dirty Laundry’s Merlot and Au Naturel Gewürztraminer at the National Wine Awards in 2018. Their Reisling won gold at the San Francisco Wine Competition 2017, and their Syrah also brought home gold at the Pacific Rim Wine Competition 2017.  Va va voom.

Woo Woo: Where Wine Is Fun

Dirty Laundry winemaker, Mason Spink, grew up in Victoria, B.C., and completed his honors degree in Oenology and Viticulture at Brock University in St. Catherines, Ontario. After returning to B.C after college, he worked with See You Later Ranch as assistant winemaker but was quickly promoted to winemaker for seven vintages. Spink joined the team at Dirty Laundry Vineyard in 2013, where he’s thrilled to be producing small lot fermentations where each parcel is handled with care to ensure its finest attributes are expressed in each wine.  The Grapevine Magazine was invited to speak with him about what it’s like to make wine in the Okanagan Valley.

  Grapevine Magazine: What would you like visitors to know about Dirty Laundry Vineyard?

  Mason Spink: Wine should be something that’s enjoyed. You tend to lose the fun with too much sophistication. We want our guests to enjoy themselves, feel completely free to ask questions and drink some excellent wine at the same time.

  GM: Dirty Laundry’s Woo Woo Gewürztraminer has made quite the name for itself. Can you tell us a little more about it?

  MS:  Our Gewürztraminer grapes are Dirty Laundry’s oldest ones and were propagated by the original vineyard owner Edgar Scherzinger in 1978. Prior to that, there was a cherry orchard here.

It’s common to see Vinifera at the top and vine grafting on American rootstock, but all of our Gewürztraminers have their original root systems.  There have been cases of the root pest phylloxera in the valley, but luckily it doesn’t seem to affect us here. We have five different Gewürztraminers, each with their own levels of sweetness. Our Grande Dame Gewürztraminer is made from the oldest vines on site, and our bestseller still remains Woo Woo, which is a middle of the road sweetness, often described as having melon, lychee, and pineapple notes with a subtle hint of ginger spice.

  GM:  Tell us about the Okanagan Valley and British Columbia.

  MS: It’s really stunning. Sometimes it’s easy to get used to all that we have here. I just returned from Chile where it’s an entirely different kind of beauty, but coming home you realize how lucky we are to live here.

It’s truly an incredible place. I love that we have such diversity in grapes. Down south, we find Syrahs in Oliver that are similar to jammy Australian ones, while we have more of the Northern Rhone French style up North.

  G.M: Can you give us a sense of the terroir in Summerland?

  M.S: Dirty Laundry has approximately 100 acres of vineyards, with a new vineyard in Prairie Valley. There are sandy volcanic soils, many on rolling hills and silt-rich slopes. We see a variety of vine direction, north, south, and west facing.  The valley terrain definitely allows for a variety of growing ability.

Traditionally B.C. has always been divided by into four “Designated Viticultural Areas” by the VQA. These include The Okanagan Valley, Vancouver Island, Fraser Valley and Similkameen Valley. The VQA is currently in the midst of changing their Appalachian areas to honor the diversity of the land, adding five or six new sub-Appalachians to reflect the many smaller vineyards on Bottleneck Drive. There’s such a wide range of grape characteristics due to the diverse landscape here.  It’s often an interesting juggling act to get all of our grapes harvested at the same time. We try to control what we can, but in fact, we rely on Mother Nature above all else.

  GM: What does Dirty Laundry’s elevated tasting experience include?

  MS: Our wine shop is a favorite spot, but often people want a more personal experience where they can learn more about our wines and find out how they’re made. Our boardroom overlooks the vineyards and patio, guests can enjoy a cheese and wine pairing, and if they’d like to enhance their experience, they can also take a scenic vineyard tour.

Panoramic Perfection

The second largest wine region in Canada, The Okanagan Valley boasts approximately 4000 hectares of vineyards and produces 90 percent of the wine in British Columbia. Picturesque landscapes run for miles along Okanagan Lake and the communities of Kelowna, Penticton, Naramata, Oliver, Osoyoos, Summerland, and Okanagan Falls.

The dry, warm climate of the southern B.C. interior is the perfect recipe for excellence in viticulture, and the coastal mountain range protects the grapes from any potentially threatening weather. The many lakes running in the valleys control both the heat in the summer and the colder winter air. Moderate moisture combined with consistently strong sunlight allows the grapes to ripen to full maturity, and the night air helps them retain higher acidity. The microclimates in the Okanagan attract vintners from Australia, California, France, New Zealand, and South Africa.

Sassy and Classy

Voted “the cheers of wineries” by Yelp, and “best place to taste wine” by the readers at Okanagan Life Magazine, Dirty Laundry Vineyard is all about the art of creating fun for their guests while helping them develop a better understanding of some of the subtleties of viticulture.

For Spink and the other team members at Dirty Laundry, there’s no reason you can’t educate yourself, have a good time, and enjoy a high-quality experience. Their “where wine is fun” and “time to wine down” attitude is evident around every bold corner. They eliminate the pomp and deliver an unpretentious, colorful, and uniquely engaging experience. Stop in at the winery’s Red Iron Grille for an Italian Forno wood-fired pizza, and unwind with locally made gelato and live music on Friday nights. Beer lovers can indulge in the craft beer selections at The Bottoms Up Saloon. Experience a historic ride on The Kettle Valley Steam Train, built between 1910-1915, where visitors are whisked along the only remaining preserved section of the Kettle Valley Railway, winding their way through picturesque orchards and vast vineyards and stopping to catch breathtaking views of Okanagan Lake. Perched on top of the canyon on Trout Creek Trestle Bridge, 238 feet above the creek, it’s easy to understand why you’ve arrived at the most painterly point in Summerland. Don’t forget to see Dirty Laundry’s General Store and peruse their portfolio of award-winning wines, witty merchandise, clothing, and gifts.

Sassy and classy, Dirty Laundry Vineyard’s vintage charm is sure to please.

  Dirty Laundry Vineyard is located at 7311 Fiske Street, Summerland, B.C. Their tasting room hours are 11:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday through Sunday.  For more information visit their website https://www.dirtylaundry.ca/

Cooperage Matters: A Blend of Science, Technology and Craftsmanship

By: Gerald Dlubala

Whether the choice is wood, stainless steel or a hybrid combination, barrel makers have unique processes they follow to provide the best possible vessel to their customers. Each type of barrel has had successful wines poured from them. The key is to be consistent in supplying a quality barrel to the customer so that they may, in turn, deliver a quality product to their consumers.

The Certainty Of Science: Trust Cooperage

“We apply science to craft,” says James Molnar, President of Trust Cooperage. Exclusively an oak barrel crafter, Trust cooperage uses predominantly Hungarian Oak in their manufacturing process. They are the largest cooperage East of France, with lab services and a quartet of technicians that look at, study and evaluate wine daily. Additionally, they have a wine cellar on premises to regularly perform wine trials and experiments using their barrels.

“When looking for a quality barrel supplier, it’s critical to look for consistency, the credibility of the oak staves used, control over their oak resources, employees with a lab or technical background, and a consistent and reliable stave supply chain,” Molnar says. “You want someone with a well-informed, quality background working with you, not a career salesman that just happens to be selling barrels.”

Trust has that control over their supply chain, with the ability to screen all components going into their barrels. Their Hungarian oak barrels are crafted only from interior split wood and aged a minimum of two to three years. The staves are organized and stacked loosely on a custom-built concrete pad in a clean, pristine, and breezy location for maximum ventilation, easy rotation and natural seasoning in the sun, wind and rain. Aging them this way purges the harsh tannins and other impurities before they get preheated for shaping and toasted to the desired level of aroma and flavors needed. Everything is stringently controlled, including the temperature, time and exposure to flame. The finishing is controlled by hand before the barrel is closed and pressure tested.

“Our wine barrels are definitely made to last,” says Molnar. “They average a lifespan of three to four aging cycles within the winery before being repurposed into beer barrels, scotch barrels or casks for Caribbean rums. We use our carbon filtered well-water and Airocide units to wash and sterilize the barrels. Then they’re stored in a pristine, climate-controlled atmosphere year-round until wrapped for shipment to our customers.”

Trust also provides oak for alternative methods of fermenting and aging, usually in stainless-steel tanks. They supply staves, wood chips, wooden bullets and wooden pass through sticks to achieve different effects in neutral barrels and fermentation tanks.

Technology And Tradition: East Coast Wood Barrels

George Voicu, Master Cooper of East Coast Wood Barrels, stresses balance in his wood shop, barrel making, and in life. His approach to coopering is a blend between traditional craftsmanship and personally customized technology.

“As a first step in our barrel supply process, we take time to communicate with our customers, assessing their needs and providing suitable product recommendations. Then, the shop utilizes the tools and processes that I have modified and refined through my years of experience. I remain hands on to ensure that only quality materials are included in our barrel assembly process,” says Voicu. “In the final stages, the barrel bending, toasting and charring are all accomplished using a natural wood fire and bellows system. Rounding out our extreme and traditional craftsmanship qualities is the ability to finish the barrel off with custom laser engraving.”

Voicu sources his American white oak, which he calls his foundation, from local mills around Virginia, central Pennsylvania, and New York, while sticking to the Carpathian basin and Transylvania regions of Romania for his European and Hungarian oak supply.

“Wooden barrels have that ability to breathe and oxygenate the contents,” says Voicu. “That unique ability imparts an unmistakable finishing quality in wines that consumers recognize and appreciate. Our barrels are suited for all varietals because of our willingness to use a variety of woods, and their structural integrity far outlasts the wood’s inherent finishing capacity, which ultimately led to my patented wood-stainless hybrid barrel system.”

“Stainless tank and keg systems typically attempt to shut out the outside atmosphere, where a traditional wood barrel breathes. This fact is both blessing and curse,” says Voicu, “as wood barrel oxygenation promotes the chemical reactions in maturation and finish those producers want, yet also threatens longer-storage (vintage) wines with spoilage. Our stainless-steel hybrid system is a secure, workable, and easy to clean solution which promotes in-barrel micro-oxygenation through a traditional wood head; the hybrid design reduces exposure to the outside environment but does not eliminate it. Our hybrid clients also appreciate the flexibility of the removable wood inserter system, where wood to volume ratios and mixable wood profiles can be user adjusted.”

As to his wooden barrels, Voicu says that barrel lifespan is never a question, but whether empty or full, the barrels need consistent and stable storage conditions in environments that support wine finishing.

“The food grade stainless body of the hybrid, when properly handled, should last well past thirty years,” says Voicu. “The internal cylinder is free from extra features that capture contaminants, so cleaning is very simple once the heads and staves are removed. The wood components of the system can then be reused like traditional barrels, or economically replaced after each batch.”

Voicu loves that there has been an uptick in small and amateur wine and spirit producers. He encourages the practice with one bit of advice on barrel aging. “There are many barrel options available, and they are not all created equal. When you reflect upon current market forces and increased pressure upon our forests for higher quality wood required for barrels, alternative storage systems that match or exceed the performance of traditional vessels can make great sense and should be considered. Especially in current conditions, when quality stave wood is in high demand due to the wet 2018 and increased pressure from the mills and manufacturing processes.”

What’s Old is New Again: ReCoop Barrels

Lori Adams is the Director Of Business Development for ReCoop Barrels, a nationwide provider of reconditioned oak barrels. Her customers include wineries, distillers and craft brewers. Located in the heart of Sonoma County, she says she has the unique advantage of easy access to excellent barrels for the reconditioning process.

“We get barrels from partner wineries that have proven maintenance standards and systems,” says Adams. “Others bring in their barrels for reconditioning. We perform a barrel assessment for overall cleanliness, acceptable hydration levels, and stave quality, thickness and general condition. We also look at the winery’s practices as to how they store and maintain their barrels while using them. We’ve also learned that some cooperages don’t do well being toasted a second time. It’s an overall qualification process.”

Because there are no standards or rules for disclosing the use of reconditioned barrels, Adams says that typically large production wineries will not reveal that they are using reconditioned barrels. The medium and smaller producers, however, are generally eager to let the community and their customers know that they are sustainable.

“We don’t keep our reconditioned barrels long term,” says Adams. “We keep our product moving to ensure freshness and maximum usability. With a quality reconditioned barrel, you’ll get another two years of oak extraction out of it. Thereafter, depending on how the customer maintains their barrels, it can be used as neutral once again. It’s just another way to save costs.”

ReCoop is the second oldest manufacturer of reconditioned oak barrels, large and small, and Adams believes that the future is only going to get better.

“We have paid our dues, and now have some of the best winemakers in the world currently using our barrels,” Adams says. “I believe using reconditioned barrels is the future.”

Views From The Vineyard

John Falcone, General Manager and Director of Winemaking at Gainey Vineyards in Santa Ynez, California, uses both wood and stainless in his winemaking, sometimes for the same wine. He replaces a percentage of his older, retired barrels each year, and says his key to producing great wines year after year is consistency in the barrels.

“The whole point is to find a barrel signature that fits the style of wine you want to put out, and then practice consistency. Our barrel lifespan is about six to seven years, transitioning to different wine varietals throughout that time. There are many barrel producers out there, and they all have a story about their wood origins, but sometimes even they are wrong about the source of their supplies, so it’s important to constantly taste from your new barrels to make sure the flavor profile is consistent. The more bells and whistles you want your wine to possess, the more oak power you need in a barrel. Less oak forward barrel aging and fermenting will give you a wine that’s more fruit forward. You need to find a balance that fits your needs.”

All of Gainey’s red wines are barrel aged, needing the flavor and structure that comes from the slow exchange of oxygen in a wood barrel. It results in smoother tasting wine. Some of their white varietals prefer the neutrality of flavor that happens with stainless steel tanks. The tanks are airtight, with no chance of interacting with light or additional aromatics. These wines tend to be more faithful to the natural refreshing fruit essence of the wine. However, Falcone says that even these wines can be run through an older wooden barrel for a couple of weeks before finishing in stainless steel.

“The key is keeping these barrels consistent and serviceable,” says Falcone. “It’s important to stay on a routine. We keep them in cold storage and every six to eight weeks we give them a quick rinse to keep them fresh and swollen and then gas them.

Routine and consistency are also crucial to Silver Oak Winery in both Napa Valley and Alexander Valley, California. They use only American white oak and French oak, so it’s critical they have a reliable, consistent barrel supplier to meet the demands of the award-winning vintner.

“We use, at least, ninety-year-old American and French oak for our barrels,” says Vanessa Hart, Enologist at Silver Oak. “It has the straightest grain with the least number of knots. Surprisingly, very little of the wood is used for barrel staves. It’s only the wood that starts six to eight inches above ground up to the first branches.”

“American oak has more potential for stronger flavor and aromatics when compared to French oak, so that goes into the decision on what type of barrel we use for each wine,” says Nate Weis, Vice President of wine growing at Silver Oak. “American oak trees are grown in roughly thirty states now and are subject to the same variances in their life as grapevines are, meaning the ground they are grown on, the landscape, climate, and nutritional availability. Where they are grown matters, so routine tastings are a must to keep a consistent product.”

Choosing Wine Closures: Cost-Effectiveness, Benefits & Trends

By: Alyssa Ochs

With wine, it’s not only important to control what’s inside the bottles, but also how those bottles are sealed and packaged. There are numerous types of wine bottle closures available to wineries today, including corks, caps, and seals made from both natural and synthetic materials. The bevy of options poses certain challenges for wine producers looking to choose the best closures for their bottles based upon cost-effectiveness, overall benefits, and current trends.

Types of Wine Bottle Closures

Corks are the most traditional and familiar type of closure in the wine industry, yet these closures come in the form of natural corks, plastic corks, and technical corks. There are also different types of caps, such as screw caps and crown caps, that serve as wine closures. A unique synthetic closure called a ZORK, wax seals, and glass Vinolock closures are also used by wineries to enhance the appearance and quality of the wine.

What Wineries Are Using Today

Every winery approaches bottle closures a bit differently, but certain closure types are increasingly popular and trending right now. Donald E. Hagge, Ph.D., a farmer, physicist and winemaker for VIDON Vineyard in Newberg, Oregon told The Grapevine Magazine that his winery currently uses Vinoseal glass closures and screwcaps. VIDON has shifted to these closure types after using corks in the beginning.

“A percentage of wines that use corks will be either tainted or oxidized after some time in bottles,” Hagge said. “Corks are used for traditional reasons in spite of their problems.”

Sean Comninos, winemaker for William Heritage Winery in Mullica Hill, New Jersey, says his winery uses both Stelvin closures and Diam corks at this time.

“The William Heritage brand is currently 100% under various grades of Diam depending on the aging window,” he said. “We use Stelvin on our ‘Jersey Wine Collection’ brand, as these wines are meant to be drunk immediately and are more for casual enjoyment.”

Comninos said that in the very beginning, all their wines were under the same agglomerated cork. As the winery grew, it began using Stelvin closures for the Jersey brand because it made these wines more accessible and kept oxygen transfer at a minimum. The winery used Nomacork for a little while, but this closure didn’t have the ease of opening that Stelvin offered.

“We were using a combination of agglomerated and natural corks in the Heritage line for quite some time,” Comninos said. “Ultimately, we felt that even though we were spending a lot of money on premium natural cork, and we had too much inconsistency. Many bottles showed cork taint or premature oxidation. The lower end wines felt a bit cheap with the agglomerated corks. I had begun to see a lot of the corks I was pulling from various producers seemed to be made by Diam around 2014 and 2015. Not a single one was flawed, and I felt that the cork had an acceptable aesthetic quality. So, with the 2015 vintage, we switched the entire line to Diam. I’ve been quite pleased with the results due to no TCA issues, no bleed-through corks, or weird oxidative issues at all.”

Popular Wine Closure Products

Many highly experienced companies specialize in bottle closures to help wineries make the best choices for their operations.

Lakewood Cork, an independently owned and operated business in Watkins Glen, New York has been exclusively distributing Gultig Corks since 1997. Owner Chris Stamp told The Grapevine Magazine that his most popular closure is a micro-agglomerated cork called Carat. He said that one of the drawbacks of using natural cork for wine is the potential for cork taint, but with Carat, the supplier uses a patented cleaning process to eliminate cork taint issues.

“The construction of the cork provides a consistent surface that is nice for branding,” Stamp said. “In addition, this cork is one of our least expensive closure options.”

Richard Smith of Tecnocap in Glen Dale, West Virginia, said the tinplate continuous thread closure is a common closure among wineries today. This type of closure is relatively inexpensive and seals bottles effectively. Another closure that is ideal for wine bottles is Tecnocap’s Espritbonnet.

“This is a plastic closure with a customizable metal overcap,” Smith told The Grapevine Magazine. “When used with a capsule, the bottle has a similar appearance of a corked bottle. The metal can be customized with solid colors or elaborate graphics. The liner typically is an expanded polyethylene foam, but other liners can be used that match the needs of the individual winery.”

Liz Green of Mala Closure Systems in Petaluma, California, said that her company currently only manufacturers screw caps. She firmly believes that these closures are great alternatives to cork.

“We don’t like to promote any superiority in closures since the sealing mechanism can actually have a great deal to do with the final stages of the winemaking process,” Green said. “What our customer’s find is that screw caps, also known as BVS finish or ROPP finish, are often more consistent than cork and capsule. The great thing about BVS in wine is that it’s all a standardized size, no matter the volume.”

Cost-Effectiveness of Wine Closures

Every type of wine closure that exists has its pros and cons, but some of these factors are more important than others for wineries. One top factor to consider is cost-effectiveness, and companies offer a comprehensive range of closure options to fit any budget and product type.

Bobbi Stebbins of Waterloo Container, a supplier of wine bottle caps, corks, and closures in Waterloo, New York, has found that cork customers tend to have a predisposition towards natural or synthetic cork before they call Waterloo for their closure supply.

“Corks are often the most cost-effective closure, for smaller wineries especially, as they require nothing more than a basic hand corker to apply,” Stebbins said. “Natural agglomerated cork options maintain the appeal of cork at an unbeatable price point.  Disc-style corks offer a ‘step up’ from the agglo corks with natural punched cork presenting at the opening and in contact with the product. Colorful PVC capsules combined with customized cork options can elevate even the most inexpensive cork to a worthwhile opening presentation.”

Stebbins went on to explain that synthetic or plant-based cork options are often able to endure more challenging storage conditions compared to natural cork. “This allows wineries to purchase larger quantities at savings while not worrying about the product expiring or drying out, which results in savings in the long-term,” she said. “Storage conditions are not always ideal; thus this type of cork option with a longer shelf life maximizes value.”

Wine Closure Trends

Trends come and go over time, yet it’s smart to learn about emerging technologies and note where the closure industry is headed.  Concerning trends, Hagge of VIDON Vineyard said, “More wineries are using screw caps each year.”  Stebbins has also been seeing a trend toward screw caps. Many of the company’s medium-size and large wineries are making the switch to Stelvin brand capsules.

“The screw cap can be customized to suit a brand, specific to desired oxygenation levels, and offer consistency from bottle-to-bottle that a natural product may not always provide,” Stebbins said. “The outlay cost of specialized cap application equipment may be daunting to smaller wineries; however, those using co-packers or mobile bottling services are very willing to make the switch.”

Meanwhile, Comninos has been noticing a trend of prioritizing more consistency, whether that be by use of screw caps, Diam, or some other closure to ensure that each bottle tastes the same no matter its closure.

“Every cork producer out there will say they have the best cork, but the very nature of the bark is highly variable,” Comninos said. “The days of a romantic attachment to solid, variably porous pieces of cork are over, in my opinion. I feel our customers deserve to know that they are tasting exactly what we intended to sell them.”

Comninos also believes that cans are a great closure and packaging system for certain types of wine. “Portability and smaller-serving sizes are very appealing to a broad range of people. We obviously will not be canning our higher-end products, but look for a rosé, off-dry white, and a red [in cans] from us in late spring or early summer.”

Stamp of Lakewood Cork has seen a definite uptick in demand for the G-Cap, which is a Stelvin-type closure.

“While demand for traditional corks has remained fairly strong for us, we see an increase year-after-year for this alternative,” Stamp said. “They are attractively priced when compared to a good quality cork and provide a consistently perfect seal. They are available in numerous attractive stock colors, with optional printing. Many people like the twist-off convenience these caps offer.”

Mala Closure Systems’ Green said that as with so many industries in California, there’s been a movement towards recycling and environmental sustainability in the wine closure industry. “I personally believe, and it is my experience, that this trend lends itself more to screw caps due to the fact that aluminum is infinitely recyclable, whereas cork is not,” Green said. “Corks that go into wine bottles can only be used once due to potential bacteria growth and contamination.”

Top Considerations for Choosing Wine Closures

There are many things to consider before settling on a new type of closure for your wine, and, fortunately, there are many experienced professionals on-hand to guide you through the selection process.

Stamp of Lakewood Cork said that as a winemaker, he chooses his closure based on the type of wine he is bottling. For example, he leans towards a straight, natural cork for a wine that will benefit from extended aging.

“These are more expensive than some other options, but they have a great track record for protecting wine while letting it evolve nicely for many years,” he said.

However, Stamp has found that lower-priced wines that aren’t meant to age for six or more years tend to be good candidates for Carat closures.

“Our Stelvin-type closure called ‘G-Cap’ is also a good choice, as the wine evolves differently under the hermetic seal of these caps,” he said. “I think it is important to consider your clientele’s expectations when selecting a closure. Whatever you select becomes part of the package. The package communicates with your customers.”

When assisting wineries in choosing a closure, Green of Mala Closure Systems asks wineries what their primary goals and most important values are in the winemaking process and then reminds them of the ways that screw caps can assist in that process. These reasons could range from sustainability to long-term aging of wine, wide-ranging production, marketing prominence, and other considerations.

“As this point in time, the stigma of screw cap bottled wine being ‘cheap’ is going away pretty quickly,” Green said. “This is because we’ve now had more than a decade, almost two, of wine in BVS or ROPP bottles with scientific evidence that it operates in more efficient and consistent ways than in cork-sealed bottles.”

Smith of Tecnocap’s piece of advice to wineries is to imagine that every wine is a discovery. “You want to use the best closure for your process, the varietal, aging, consistency, and the other factors which are important to you,” he said. “Take advantage of the technology today to produce your best product.”

Finally, Stebbins of Waterloo Container emphasized how a wine closure company’s thorough product knowledge and useful recommendations can shape customer experience.

“Often, the client’s brand determines the bottle and the closure, which is to say that marketing may have already determined the price point, look, and experience the winery is working to achieve with any particular bottle of wine,” Stebbins said. “The closure needs to fit those parameters to reach the overall goal. Knowledge of the customer’s brand and preference is key when guiding their closure decision.”

Uninvited And Unwanted, Vineyard Pests Demand Attention

By: Gerald Dlubala

Vineyard pests are more than just unwanted guests. They can devastate crop yields, attract other pests, and bring along disease and contamination. Depending on the grape varietal and its location, landscape, and environment, the type and number of pests grape growers battle can change on an annual basis.

Ground Battles

The most common type of pest control is the use of pesticides. According to Lisa Malabad, Product Marketing Manager and Cannabis segment lead at Marrone Bio Innovations, pesticides are most successful when the vineyard manager considers the necessities of the vineyard before purchasing a product.

“There are no silver bullets because there are many factors that go into pesticide choice, including application window, ease of use, maximum allowance/season, application resistance and any additional resistance that may have developed that reduces the effectiveness of the applied product. Because of all the changing variables, it’s becoming more common for growers to add biological crop protection into their pest control programs,” Malabad said. Marrone Bio Innovations creates industry-leading platforms of pest management solutions for the agricultural community. Their products help increase crop yield while decreasing chemical residue and pesticide loads in the environment.

However, biological crop protection cannot wholly reduce pests on its own. Marrone Bio recommends a strong, integrated pest management program that includes three main controls: biological, cultural, and pesticides.

“The key to a robust pest management system is monitoring, scouting, assessing and treating in various methods,” says Malabad. “There are considerable products on the market today that are labeled for grapes while providing some level of control for key pests. They fall into three main types: biologicals use natural enemies to attack unwanted pests; cultural methods involve planting cover crops to inhibit or drive away those that are unwanted; and pesticides, which fall into either the organic or synthetic category.”

Integrated pest management programs allow vineyard managers and workers to get to know the vineyard and the changes it goes through from week-to-week throughout the season.

“There is no one answer,” says Malabad, “which is why most growers in California have trusted Pest Control Advisors that consult with the growers for best management practices. Different pests affect the vineyards at different times of the year, but mealybugs, leafhoppers, and mites are the more commonly found insects. Pest pressure and intensity changes from year to year, so many growers are starting to look at preventative measures to control pests. Each varietal has its nuances, so getting ahead of the problem is critical. Ground makeup, cultural practices and micro-climates will determine the best overall pest management program within any unique block, so field scouting is the most important tool we have to determine treatment thresholds and preferred treatment times.”

Marrone Bio offers a pair of organic insecticide options for grape growers to include in their programs. Venerate XC is a liquid, easily mixed and sprayed for repeated success against mites while being soft on both the beneficial insects and pollinators that are so important to vineyard success. Grandevo WDC is equally successful in strengthening any pest control program against mealybugs.

Oil-Based

Since 1977, JMS Flower Farms has been helping farmers eradicate powdery mildew, aphids, whiteflies, mites and more in grape crops with their JMS Stylet-Oil, an all-in-one, environmentally safe, white mineral oil-based insecticide, fungicide and plant disease controller that is food grade quality, colorless, tasteless and odorless. Extensive research has shown no effect on the flavor, taste or aroma of grapes or wine.

Stylet-Oil works by physical contact, requiring applicators to wear coveralls, chemical resistant gloves, and shoes and socks. Once applied through a sprayer, the oil acts as a smothering agent, killing powdery mildew on contact, and also preventing insect respiration, spore germination and the attachment of organisms to the host plant.

One of the benefits of using a mineral oil-based treatment like JMS Stylet-Oil is that it prevents mildew development, kills infections both before and after they are visible, and prevents sporulation. It has also proved effective against Botrytis bunch rot and when used as a resistance management tool. JMS recommends the oil as the first step in a powdery mildew treatment program to eradicate the strains before they become resistant.

Bird Battles

Dan Kramer, Technical Director of Avian Enterprises, wants nothing more than to make unwanted guests, in his case, the birds and geese, unhappy. Unhappy enough that they don’t want to come back to your vineyard. Ever. He considers himself a wine aficionado and wants his favorite grape growers to be successful and available. Continually, he’s heard one thing over and over from disgruntled vineyard owners at trade shows, most recently in Sacramento.

“Birds are decimating their crops,” says Kramer, “and that’s not an exaggeration. A group of birds can descend in numbers and do significant damage in no time at all. You’ll first notice a couple of scout birds, and before you know it, your grape crop is infested. That’s just the beginning. Birds just love to leave half-eaten grapes around, readily inviting other damaging pests and disease-carrying rodents to the party, and all of those droppings being left behind are an additional vector for disease and illness. We know that small groups of birds control the movement of the flock, so our goal with our Avian Control bird repellent is to make those birds around your vineyard unhappy. Avian Control makes them unhappy, and unhappiness leads them away.”

Avian Control is a liquid product that is most commonly applied by an air blast sprayer, a piece of equipment that many vineyards already have on hand. Applications are put directly on the fruit but do not affect the growing fruit strand. Kramer suggests applying the liquid every ten days as the product breaks down into a gaseous state.

“I liken it to our reaction to pepper spray,” says Kramer. “It affects the bird’s trigeminal nerve, triggering distress and carrying those sensations to the brain. They can absorb it through their feet when they touch it, through their mouths when tasting it, and when the product is transforming into a gaseous state, the birds will notice it by way of their nasal passages.”

It’s effective on birds only, which is a big advantage, and because of an invisible stain on the vegetation and bird’s eyesight sensitivity to UV rays, they will come to learn and recognize Avian Control treated areas.

“You’ll see the birds fly in, move around, leave, and maybe repeat once or twice before finally leaving altogether,” says Kramer. “They realize that something isn’t right within the treated areas and then respond to those areas as if they are off limits, moving on to more accessible areas.”

Avian Control has significantly reduced crop loss while overcoming objections about possible taste issues. Minimal dosing compared to other products is a significant factor in this accomplishment, with the use of 32 ounces per acre versus a two and a half gallon per acre spread rate for other treatments. In taste tests where the winemaker knew he was tasting the same grapes from a treated vs. untreated group, he was unable to discern any difference between the two tastings. Avian Control is a green, biodegradable product, featuring a one hundred percent break down rate with total non-toxicity.

“Netting is a great idea in concept, but it gets very costly with the amount of time and labor involved, and it also restricts airflow,” says Kramer. “And guess what? You still get birds in there anyway. For goodness sake, use your air blast sprayer that you likely have on hand, and save on time, money and labor costs. You can spread our product for about thirty-five dollars per acre, three times a year, rather than spending eight hundred dollars per acre installing and uninstalling those pain in the rear nets.”

Eye In The Sky

Wayne Ackermann, Director of Business Development for The Bird Control Group, keeps those birds away from your grapevines by using his automated laser bird repellent. Ackermann previously worked in the wine industry and used the Agrilaser Autonomic for his own agricultural needs before ultimately joining the company. The Agrilaser Autonomic is a fully automated bird repellent that uses lasers to deter birds around the clock. Sounds simple, but a significant amount of technology is behind the success of the device.

“With a laser, the human eye sees the dot, but the birds see the full beam, almost in the way that we see a laser when it’s projected through fog or steam. The birds see the whole thing, like a sword or stick, or as I like to say, a lightsaber,” says Ackermann. “The beam appears to them to be a real, physical, dangerous object coming towards them, so they scatter to get out of the perceived path. First trials were very successful in blueberry farms, so the next logical steps were to expand to vineyards, where it has proved to be a very effective tool, not only here but in international trials as well.”

Often, says Ackerman, only one unit is needed to keep birds away.

“Individual farm landscapes, terrain, and planting row density make a difference, as does canopy heights,” says Ackermann. “We start with one unit, which generally handles an eight to twelve-acre range. If more coverage is needed, we add additional units to overlap and provide cross coverage.”

The units can run by standard power or solar. Standard power is preferred if available in the fields because of longer run times and fewer potential complications, but if you want physical portability in the unit, then the solar panel option can be a useful upgrade. Each unit is programmable with up to 16 different patterns and one hundred different waypoints so that the birds won’t become accustomed to the same model. The Bird Control Group can set and program the units and also train the users of the units using their software program and a standard Windows-based laptop.

“It becomes very intuitive and user-friendly,” said Ackermann. “And the success rate of the laser technology has been significant.”

However, Ackermann says that they are continually learning and improving through new studies and the experiences of current customers.

“Hey, these birds are smart,” said Ackermann. “They get accustomed to all kinds of things like thump cannons, squawk boxes, ribbons and balloons. So far, lasers have worked out very well with a reported 70% success rate in keeping birds away. That number grows if you use it in conjunction with other options.”

Maintenance on the Agrilaser Autonomic is simple and straightforward, with regular lens cleaning and battery replacements. An internal timer and regular programs control the lasers, which come with a one-year warranty.