Aroma Trials

By: Thomas J. Payette, Winemaking Consultant

OK– your wine smells good but can it have a better aroma?  Always keep this in mind as a winemaker or winery owner.  The largest violation of “house palate”, a process where winemakers overlook their wine flaws because they taste their own wines too often, is the oversight that their wines may be reduced.  Reduced or reductive is a broad term that covers many sulfide compounds ranging from hydrogen sulfide, rotten egg, to other more complex aromatics that may smell like cabbage, dill weed, onions or even garlic.

Early detection of these flaws is imperative to clean up the wines and to make sure these compounds do not evolve toward other more difficult to remove compounds, mercaptans, often needing ascorbic acid additions to make the wine reactive to the most commonly used remedy copper sulfate.

Copper sulfate trials are extremely easy and there is no excuse for each wine created not to go through at least three quick trials with copper sulfate to see if the wine aroma will indeed become improved.

When? The author recommends each wine be reviewed:

  1. Anytime one suspects a wine to be reduced or smells hydrogen sulfide in the fermenter.
  2. Review all wines just after the fermentation process as a blanket rule process to discover any wines that may improve from the copper sulfate addition.
  3. Three months prior to bottling and preferably before any stability processing actions have been taken.
  4. Roughly three days before bottling.

Why? As suggested, in the first sentence of this article, winemakers should review each wine’s aroma to see if faults exist.  Some of the faults do not express themselves directly as Hydrogen Sulfide or Mercaptans.  Some wines may have just enough of one of these compounds, or both, to lightly mask the underlying fruit expression.  Winemakers may not know nice smelling wine can actually smell nicer.  It is an easy test – so why not run these trails!

Where? Most winemakers will perform this test in the winery laboratory, away from the chill of the cellar floor, where a wine will have the ability to open up and allow for undisrupted critical analysis of the wine’s aroma.  If winemakers cannot find this tranquility in their winery, it is recommended to take a sample home and do the trials in a home environment.  One must be able to focus and have conditions for the wine to open up.  This is critical.

Tools needed

  • Clean wineglasses with a narrow focused opening to the bowl (I.N.A.O. style). All exact same size and style.
  • Glass watch covers for each glass (optional but highly recommended).
  • Representative samples of each wine to be sampled.
  • 1.0% Copper Sulfate solution (One percent).
  • Spit cup.
  • Clear and “in tune” nasal passages.

How? This test is very easy to perform as long as the environment is proper for the aroma analysis.  If possible, work closely with someone else to mix up the wineglasses after treatment so you will be blind on this analysis.  If this can’t be done – do proceed since experience will help take any bias out of the results.

  1. Place three (“aroma free”) dry clean wine glasses on a table and label them x, 4 and > or any other random characters that may not lead a person to select one wine glass over another but allow them to identify what glass or glasses may be different.
  2. Fill each glass with the same quantity of wine. This is often between 80-100 milliliters per wine glass depending on the wine glass size.
  3. Have another person place 1 drop of the 1% Copper Sulfate into one of the glasses and to swirl all three glasses equally to mix the addition into the wine and to treat each glass equally with a swirl.
  4. Place watch glasses over each of the glass openings and leave the glasses to sit for about 5 to 10 minutes.
  5. Approach the wine glasses and remove the watch glasses one at a time to smell the aromas in the headspace of the glass. Go through the wines at least three times and perhaps more to select the wine that smells the best.  Record your results.
  6. Leave the wine glasses for another 15 minutes or longer and re-approach in the same fashion by smelling each wine individually and select the glass or glasses that smell the best.
  7. After determining that the wine is actually changed and changed for the better, have the person that added the copper sulfate to the glass reveal the glass that was treated.
  8. Mentally extrapolate after collecting all the data whether the addition of copper sulfate had a positive impact on the wine or not. Be aware not to select the copper sulfate addition wine – just because it is different.  The wine should smell better – not just different.
  9. Once an addition is deemed helpful, proceed to making the adjustment in the cellar as referenced below under calculation. This test is not quantitative.

This test is sometimes known as a triangle test.

Spicing it Up!

Once you and your assistant get comfortable with the test, he or she can be instructed to switch around the treatment regime to perhaps treat two of the three wineglasses.  This will keep the person smelling the wines on their toes to actually identify what wine smells better and to truly focus on the improved wine.

Referencing the fact that a spit cup was listed under the “Tools needed” list above, one should have their spit cup ready.  This should be used if by habit one should accidentally taste the wines.  Remember, technically, Copper Sulfate is a poison so winemakers should resist tasting our trails and only focus on the aromas.

One can build on this test to correct Mercaptans, also.  Mercaptans are Hydrogen Sulfide based compounds that have transformed to a more complicated chemical compound.  Ascorbic acid trials may need to be tested for effectiveness in these cases.  Reference other sources to review this process as it will not be covered at this time.


In my opinion there is no truly reliable calculation for this test to determine quantitatively how much copper sulfate to add.  In most cases it is best to add small quantities of copper sulfate to a wine nearing the range of 1.0 gram per 1000 gallons to as low as one-half a gram per 1000 gallons to clean up small defects.  This is a good starting point.  From experience, you may start to recognize a wine that may need more Copper Sulfate to combat more pungent aromas.  This chemical is a strong oxidizer so use limited amounts.  Overuse could have serious downsides to your wine.

Removal of Copper After Use

In most cases, only small amounts of copper sulfate are used to clean up a wine so we rarely need to address lowering the copper content in the wine.  Please recognize when larger quantities have been used.  Use an outside laboratory to actually measure the amount of residual copper in your wine.  In many cases, for white wines treated prior to protein fining with bentonite, they may clean up on their own.  The author has seen copper levels drop significantly after protein fining and filtering of white wines.  Many years ago, wines may have needed a “Blue-Fining” but one rarely has those issues in today’s winemaking plus they are not permitted in the United States.

The Future

According to some scientist we need to more closely look at nutrients and their role with the yeast.  In some cases too much or too little nutrients may cause Hydrogen Sulfide production and it is thought to link into the micronutrients.  Nitrogen issues may not be the driving factor here.  This will help us stay away from using copper sulfate, which does have adverse affects to the wine in addition to cleaning the wine up sensorialy.  Until that time we need to address the problem in a fashion we can, such as copper sulfate.  Stay tuned.

Other Helpful Tips

  • Caution is expressed not to confuse a change in aroma in the wine with this being considered better. This is called “Stripping”.
  • Caution is also expressed not to consume / taste wines that have added copper sulfate added during these trials.
  • Do these trials next to any wine that may be a follow-up bottling for that wine to see if consistency is achieved and to focus on other nuances that may easily be changed.
  • The Tax and Trade Bureau does regulate the amount of copper sulfate a winemaker may use.
  • Please research this amount and have a clear understanding of the use of copper sulfate. It is a strong oxidizer and considered poisonous.
  • A reduced character may become hard to notice if the wine has just been racked, transferred, filtered or in any way brought into a less anaerobic state.

These reductive compounds may be just under the threshold of the human nose sensitivity and difficult to smell.  If this same wine is bottled, the reductive character may become very pronounced.

Screw cap wines may need more serious aroma reviews and evaluation since these seals are more anaerobic than previous seals. Caution is urged when making wine to be bottled under screw cap to make sure no underlying reductiveness is present.  Outside labs also offer “headspace sniffing” if one feels they need additional help.

Wines exposed to light may become “lightstruck”.  Light struck is a term used to describe that light has attacked an amino acid and caused a mercaptan-type aroma.  This phenomenon is somewhat more common with flint bottles and sparkling wines.


Amerine, M.A., Berg, H.W., Cruess,W.V. 1972. The Technology of Wine Making

Dharmadhikari, M.R., Wilker, K.L. 2001. Micro Vinification.

Zoecklein, B.W., Fugelsang, K.C., Gump, B.H., and Nury, F.S. 1999. Wine Analysis and Production

Verbal discussion with Mr. Jacques Boissenot, Mr. Jacques Recht, Mr. Joachim Hollerith and Mr. Chris Johnson.

Short Course:

  • This is qualitative and not quantitative
  • Make sure the change in aroma is not just “stripping”
  • Copper Sulfate is a poison – be careful to check residual copper present after larger uses.
  • Know when to use outside “electronic sniffers”

Is Your Facility Ready to Host Events?

By: Markel Insurance

As the spring season brings new life to the vineyards and offers opportunities of growth, so too are winery owners looking for new growth in their operations with increased sales.  Having a great experience at a winery results in improved customer loyalty, increased publicity and more sales.

One way to maximize your public exposure is by hosting events.   The activities can be small and simple such as an acoustic guitar on the back patio or larger concert exposures.   Events can include wine club dinners, fund raisers, vendor shows or weddings.

In planning for the events that will best suit your operations and facility, several key elements should be reviewed to help minimize losses and protect your assets.  Understanding your target market and what activities are best for you are as unique as each blend of wine.  Current markets have several popular events, including yoga stretch and sip; Wine Paint and Pour; Races through the vineyard or even a vendors “farmers market” offering local crafts and products.

There are the tried and true, more traditional activities expected at a winery with Crush or Harvest festivals, pickin’ party, club dinners and weddings/shower events.

You should consider the space needed based on the anticipated number of participants and any specialty needs, including tables & chairs or tents, rental equipment, caterer or DJ/vendors.

Once you have an idea on the type of event that will appeal to your demographics, a quick checklist can be reviewed.

Facilities Checklist for Hosting Events:

  • Is the use/occupancy rating for the property acceptable for the type of event?
  • Will you be able to provide adequate staffing for supervision?
  • Is there clear signage for acceptable vs restricted access areas?
  • Are there any ADA compliant concerns at the facility?
  • Based on the attendance expectations, will there be enough bathrooms, trash cans, water stations, shade/covered areas?
  • Are the electrical demands up to code? Who manages the setup and takedown for stage and dance floor exposures?
  • Is there emergency personnel on site?

Slip, Trips and Falls

Liability losses related to the facility most commonly relate to the slip, trip or fall category.  Not to underestimate the severity of what seems to be a simple loss cause, the following claim shows a good illustration of what can happen.

  Real-life claim example: A small concert event on a patio that required additional electrical power and resulted in cords running along the open patio.  A trip and fall occurred resulting in a fractured hip.  A surgery turned into an infection, causing a second surgery and extended recovery time.  With lost wages alone, the price was rising, and when finally settled to include medical, the shared cost was nearly $1.7 million.


Parking can be an often overlooked, but it is an important influence on the experience of the customer because it can be the first and last impression for any event.

Parking Factors to Consider

  • Is there adequate parking based on the number of attendees and is it easily accessible?
  • Always consider the path for emergency vehicle access (fire trucks, police cars, and ambulances).
  • Should local authorities be notified of the event and to help route the traffic flow in and out of facility.
  • Make sure the parking lot is clear of debris and free of obstacles with clear walking areas outside of traffic pattern.
  • Verify all areas of the parking log are well-lit for evening use and not susceptible to rain or vehicle being stuck.
  • Have clearly marked flow patterns and parking lanes help eliminate confusion and frustration.
  • Determine if you will have attendees directing traffic, or will be offering valet parking or any shuttle/transportation.

  Real-life claim example: Parking mishaps may leave you exhausted, or exhaust-less.  A vineyard/winery cleared a small lot to have as overflow parking for their outdoor event.  A small tree stump remained and although not a concern for the tractor or owners pickup truck, was not concealed enough to avoid damaging the exhaust systems of several customers that parked in the field lot.


Depending on the size of the event, the responsibilities of the host grows with increased attendance.  When managing crowd control, do you rely on winery staff or opt for hired security.  Are there any weapons carried by other than law enforcement?  Do you hire off duty local law enforcement or an independent contractor.  Rules and procedure should  be clear relating to checking coolers and bags; not allowing any outside liquor; and restricted areas, especially where there is an attractive hazard, i.e. – open barns, fire pit, swimming pool/fountain/pond.  As an aside on fire, any open flame, fire pits, bon fires, outdoor grills, burgers and s’more’s cooker should be reviewed to make sure there are proper barriers, clear space and storage of combustibles.

Contracts and Certificates

Contracts and certificates should be in place for all vendors, caterers, artist, or instructors.  Each certificate of insurance should be from an  A rated or higher admitted carrier with limits equal to or greater than your limits, naming you as an additional insured, owner of premises.


People love their pets and pet lovers typically believe that everyone else should also be a pet lover, especially their pet.  From an insurance standpoint, it is not recommended to have pet friendly events.   If pets are allowed is there restrictions to be on leash or in designated areas.

Is the vineyard dog allowed to mingle in the crowd, “unsupervised?”

Know the difference between a professional service animal and a therapy pet and have clear rules so that you avoid an issue of selected acceptance or exclusion and can rely on your policy language.


Although minors may not be the norm for the tasting room, family friendly events can bring in a broad age range.   Have you crawled through your facility lately?  What may be obvious to an educated adult, may not be as clear to a child.  Locks and barriers are better than signs alone.  Have staff training to look for hazards and anticipate a lack of parental supervision.  Most wineries are not suitable as a daycare operation and should not have any childcare exposures.

Miscellaneous Exposures

  Evening Events: As a general rule of thumb, liability goes up when the sun goes down.  For many reasons, whether it be the time element of consuming more alcohol or just the visual difficulties to recognize hazards, losses are more likely as events run into the evening hours.   Having events that are shut down by 10:00pm would be considered a good practice and depending on your coverage carrier, may be a requirement.

  Cyber Security: Cyber / data breach coverage can include storing the credit card information for your club members, but can also apply to online purchases and any ticket sales for events.

  Private Events: When dealing with a special private event such as a Wedding or private party, clear contracts are the key.  The greatest frustrations come for unmet expectations.  Make sure all parties know what is being provided and what the expectations are for contracts, payment, timeframes or services.

  Real-life Claim Example: A facility that was not closed to the general public during a wedding event.  There was no clear detail on a separation of the wedding party areas vs the public access tasting room area.  In a clash of Party vs Public, tempers rose, words were cast and a white wedding dress is now a shade of cabernet.


This checklist is not all inclusive for all the unique elements to all event types.   The checklist should be a starting point for your facility.  Before hosting more events at your facility, review what type of events will be the best fit for your situation to provide a great experience for your guest.  Try to create events that will have a positive marketing buzz and will also increase your income while minimizing your exposures to loss.

The information provided in this article is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as all encompassing, or suitable for all situations, conditions, and environments.

  Please contact us or your insurance professional if you have any questions. Products and services are offered through Markel Specialty, a business division of Markel Service Incorporated (national producer number 27585).  Policies are written by one or more Markel insurance companies. Terms and conditions for rate and coverage may vary.

For More Information Please Call Us At…800-814-6773, or Visit Our Website:

Here Come the Hybrids

By: Nan McCreary

We hear a lot about hybrid cars, hybrid fruits, hybrid vegetables and even hybrid animals, but what about hybrid grapes? Traditionally, wines made from hybrid grapes have been a non-starter for wine lovers, but that’s about to change. As we prepare to enter a new decade, more and more wine professionals are taking a second look at hybrids, and pioneering winemakers and scientists are working to improve existing varieties and introduce new ones.

A Double-edged Vine

Hybrid grapes are the product of crossing breeding two or more Vitis species. In the U.S., these grapes are cultivated by combining the rootstock from Vitis vinifera, a European wine grape species, and North American vines, commonly Vitis labrusca and Vitis riparia. Vitis vinifera is the source of noble wines so popular today, including Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Chardonnay. Vitis labrusca is widely distributed across central and eastern Canada, and the central and northeastern part of the U.S. Vitis riparia originates in central and eastern Canada and the United States, extending as far west as Montana. Grapes from Vitis labrusca and Vitis riparia in their original form are rarely used for winemaking.

French-American hybrid wines were created as a solution for Phylloxera which devastated the vineyards of Europe in the mid-1800s. Because American grapevines were resistant to phylloxera—as well as powdery mildew, rot and other disease— scientists responded to the crisis by grafting Vitis vinifera vines onto to disease-resistant American rootstock. While these new varieties did provide a solution to phylloxera, the grapes crossed with Vitis labrusca and Vitis riparia were not as popular as those crossed with Vitis vinifera. Critics panned the hybrids because they lacked “purebred” status as well as the depth and complexity of Vitis vinifera grapes. Also, hybrid wines were often panned as “foxy,” a term describing juice that smells or tastes like musky Welch’s grape juice. These undesirable attributes caused many European countries to prohibited the use of hybrid grapes in quality wines.

Turning Tides

Today, the tide is turning for these much-maligned varieties. Unlike sensitive vinifera grapes that require particular weather conditions and soil to thrive, French-American hybrids made from Vitis labrusca and Vitis riparia can grow just about anywhere. They withstand harsh winters—some surviving in temperatures as low as -30 F—as well as arid, brutally hot Arizona summers. Hybrid cultivars are critical to the rapid changes in eastern and central vineyards. With growth in wine-related tourism exploding, wineries are showing up in locations where wine production was once thought impossible. Hybrids are also increasingly popular because they are resistant to many diseases, which encourages growers to farm organically. Even the EU is encouraging producers to reconsider hybrid grapes, as cost and health concerns from fungicides continue to rise.

Much of the success of hybrid grapes today can be attributed to the enology departments at the University of Minnesota and Cornell University, which have been breeding hybrid wine varieties since the 1970s and 1980s. Minnesota’s wine grape research enjoys recognition as one of the top programs in the U.S., with the goal of developing high-quality, cold-hardy and disease-resistant wine grape cultivars. Cornell is home to one of the top viticulture and enology programs in the world with international recognition for its expertise in breeding table, juice and wine grapes adapted to cool-climate growing regions. Programs at both schools dedicate research to producing new grapes with potential for flavor and winemaking, with an ideal balance between cold-hardiness and delicate flavors.

The following is a list of the most popular French-American hybrids in the U.S., according to The Grape Grower’s Handbook by Ted Goldammer and used with permission from the publisher, Apex Publishing.

Red Wine Varieties

Baco Noir:  Produces wines that have been variously described as “Rhone-style” or “Beaujolais-style.” It is characterized by high titratable acidity at fruit maturity and produces wines of good quality that are normally deeply pigmented but low in tannin content. It develops a fruity aroma associated with aspects of herbs. The wine is grown primarily in Canada, New York, Oregon and Nova Scotia.

Chambourcin:  Considered one of the best of French-American hybrids, is a highly rated wine used often used for blending with other wines. The grape produces a deep-colored wine with a full, aromatic flavor, and no unpleasant hybrid flavors. It can be made into a dry style or one with a moderate residual sugar level, giving it a pleasant but not overbearing sweetness. Wines from this grape are higher in tannins than other French-American hybrids. Varietal descriptors include raspberry, cloves, cherry, plum, and tobacco. The wine may be found in Ontario (Canada), Missouri, Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, New York and New Jersey.

Chancellor:  The wine quality is among the better of the French-American hybrids, and it does well alone or in blends. It produces a medium-bodied red wine which is capable of aging well. It tends to be very colored, and care should be taken not to extract too much color from the skins. It’s an important grape in the cooler regions of Canada and the U.S., such as the Finger Lakes Region of New York.

Frontenac:  Produces deep-colored wines with cherry, blackberry, black currant, and plum notes. It can also be used in production of port-style-wines. The University of Minnesota developed the grape and released in 1996. Because Frontenac can survive in temperatures as low as -30 F, it is planted across the Northeastern part of the U.S. and Canada and is one of the most commonly planted wine grapes in Minnesota.

Maréchal Foch:  Possesses Burgundian characteristics, having a vibrant, deep purple color, with a light-medium structure and dark berry fruit characteristics. Some tasters find the similarities to Burgundy Pinot Noir become more pronounced with age. Maréchal Foch is one of the hardiest of the hybrids and is widely grown commercially throughout the Midwestern U.S. and Canada.

Norton (Cynthiana):  Produces a rich, full-bodied dry red wine with berry flavors and spicy overtones. It can be used in varietal wines, including ports, but may also be blended with other reds. These wines have an intense color. Norton is grown in the Midwestern U.S., Mid-Atlantic States, Northeastern Georgia and, most recently, in California.

White Wine Varieties

Cayuga:  Produces a European style white table wine, which has medium body and good balance. This versatile grape can be made into a semisweet wine, which brings out the fruit aromas, or if oak aging, into a dry, less fruity wine. The Cayuga White grape was developed especially for the Finger Lakes Region in New York by Cornell University, and is known for producing fine sparkling wines.

Chardonel:  Is a cross of Seyval Blanc and Chardonnay that produces an excellent wine, with aromas characteristic of both parents. Chardonel has the potential for fine-quality, dry still wines produced with barrel fermentation and/or barrel aging. Chardonel is popular in the Midwestern U.S. and the Mid-Atlantic states.

Seyval Blanc:  Produces a fresh, crisp wine that is often described as good with attractive aroma, but the body is somewhat thin. Malolactic fermentation or barrel fermentation followed by oak aging will enhance the quality. The variety is also popular in Canada and the Midwestern U.S. and the Eastern U.S., particularly New York.

Traminette:  Is a late mid-season white wine grape which produces wine with distinctive floral aroma and spicy flavors, characteristic of its Gewürztraminer parent. Traminette’s relatively high acid and low pH help complement its fresh-fruit aromas and flavors. The wine can be made dry or sweet but is usually finished with some residual sweetness. The wine is grown on the East Coast of the U.S. and in the Midwest.

Vidal blanc:  Is considered one of the best of the white French-American hybrids. The wine produced from Vidal blanc is fruity, with grapefruit and pineapple notes. The wines produced can be quite versatile, ranging from off-dry German style wines to dry, barrel-fermented table wines. Due to its high acidity and fruitiness, it is particularly suited to sweeter, dessert wines. It is especially popular as an ice wine in Canada. You can also find Vidal Blanc the Eastern and Midwestern U.S.

Vignoles:  Produces excellent wines of many different styles, depending on the region where the grapes are grown. Most commonly, however, Vignoles is produced as an off-dry wine or as a dessert wine, especially when picked late in the season. The fruit can have a high sugar content while retaining high acidity. Vignoles is one of the mainstays of the Eastern North American wine industry. It is also prevalent in the Midwest and been called “Missouri’s favorite white wine.”

This list is by no means comprehensive. Cornell and Minnesota have created hundreds if not thousands of new varieties. In 2006, Minnesota introduced two cold-hardy grapes, Marquette and La Crescent. Marquette, a red grape, is said to have the characteristics of Vitis vinifera grapes, while La Crescent has been touted as the perfect choice for Riesling lovers. More recently, Minnesota released the Itasca hybrid, which has drawn comparisons to Sauvignon Blanc.

While French-American hybrids may not have reached the international status of Vitis vinifera wines, the future is wide open for these varietals. Researchers are continuing to develop grapes that produce desirable qualities, and growers are experimenting in site selection, growing techniques and winemaking. Hybrids are getting a second look, too, as an option to offset climate change. Researchers at the University of California Davis are trying to create heat resistant grapes that produce quality wines. In France, the INAO has approved a third category of grape varieties “for climate and environmental adaption” that allow regions to conduct their research on heat-resistant grape varietals.

Wines made from hybrid grapes continue to improve by leaps and bounds. Whether used to offset global warming, promote sustainability, due to changes in consumer tastes or the “localvore” movement, the time is right for these former “mutts” of the wine world. Who knows, one day a hybrid may take its rightful place in wine shops as “America’s grape,” and become a rising star in the international wine scene. Stay tuned!

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.


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.


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

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, found that marketing email opens are highest from 8 p.m.–midnight, with a second peak between 4–8 p.m. 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.


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.

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

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.


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.