What Wineries Should Know About Labels, Printing, and Bottle Engraving

By Alyssa Ochs

In the wine industry, a label is much more than a sticker on the bottle identifying the brand. Rather, a label is an opportunity to tell consumers about your winery, the intricacies of a particular type of wine, and to highlight its character and quality. That is why it’s so important to put as much time and thought into what’s on the outside of the bottle as what’s inside.

The Importance & Basics of Wine Labels

The importance of effective label printing is to differentiate your product from other wines and help it stand out in the competitive market. Labels provide valuable information to consumers about the winery’s location, tasting notes and alcohol content. In the U.S., labels must also adhere to and be compliant with Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau standards.

To best serve consumers, wineries must consider temperature change, moisture and humidity when choosing label materials. Increasingly, wineries are choosing labels that are eco-friendly and sustainably sourced using biodegradable polylactic acid film, tree-free label stock made from bamboo or sugar cane, or FSC-certified paper.

Sara Nelson, president of Sara Nelson Design, told The Grapevine Magazine some designers stick strictly to art, while others, with more training and broader experience, can help wineries figure out how to visually express their brands.

“Depending on the research you read, from 50 percent to 75 percent of wine buying decisions are made based on the label. Your logo and label have a job to do: sell wine,” said Nelson. “To that end, whether you prefer flowers or animals on labels or whether you like blue is just one small consideration. A designer with experience in the wine industry should also be very familiar with TTB rules, regulations and policies. They should also be helping you to make sounds decisions that help both maximize revenue and minimize cost. That means attention to your competitive situation – anticipated price point; production; how you plan to bottle and label; and where and how it will be sold.”

Printer Options for Wineries

For wineries with in-house design teams or with the ambition to make their own, there are several printers in the marketplace capable of printing professional-looking labels. Options include both laser and inkjet printers, as well as flexographic label presses to transfer images onto labels for large runs of custom labels. Digital label presses are often ideal for small wineries, small batches and short-run labels. For all wineries, the primary considerations when choosing a printer are size, capacity and cost.

One option is the Kiaro! QL-120 inkjet label printer, which offers flexible printing options and speeds that can produce thousands of labels per hour. Meanwhile, some wineries choose to print and apply their labels with LX-Series Color Label Printers and AP-Series Label Applicators.

However, Nelson advises that the quality of DIY labels may not stand up to the expectations of the winery or the consumer. “It seldom makes sense for a winery in a competitive situation to design or print its own labels,” she said. “Very few consumer-grade printers can print with enough consistent precision or use materials necessary to compete with commercial print companies that specialize in beverage labels. Even if the hardware were available and affordable, consumables (ink or toner) can be atrociously expensive and not easy to source.”

 Kevin Crimmins, the director of strategy and business development for The Label Printers in Aurora, Illinois, told The Grapevine Magazine that the best technology for wineries is dependent upon what considerations and needs a winery brings to its printer.

“The dominant technology in label printing for a long time, whether for wine or really any bottled product, has been flexography,” Crimmins said. “Flexographic printing technology is well-suited to label printing due to its ability to efficiently imprint a high volume of identical images and complete the other steps necessary to produce finished labels with minimal handling and reliable consistency.”  However, Crimmins pointed out that digital printing technologies have also become widely used by wineries in recent years.

“Unlike flexography, digital technologies imprint images without reliance on plates,” he said. “This enables printers to create labels with variable images—every label can be different from all the others. Digital printing also delivers crisp, high-resolution images, and in some cases, it can enable a printer to more efficiently respond to requests for smaller quantity runs.”

David Noone of Noontime Labels in San Ysidro, California agreed that the best labels for a winery depend on the customer, product, and budget.  “We use digital presses exclusively, which provide a quality label that is very cost-effective,” Noone said. “Other printing techniques, like offset printing and flexography, do provide a bit higher quality but require much larger quantities to be affordable. Most of our customers find the differences nuanced and opt for the cost savings of digital.”

Savannah Bergin, the director of sales and marketing of Bergin Screen Printing & Etching in Napa, California, told us that her company thinks applied ceramic labels, also referred to as direct screen printing, are the most creative.

“Screen printing allows for the entire surface of the bottle to be used as the canvas,” Bergin said. “Use of a 360-degree design, shoulder and neck decoration is possible with screen printing. With other label application, that is not possible without either applying separate labels. Heat shrink sleeves would be the closest comparison, yet still not directly applied and fused to the glass.”

Material Options

When it comes to label materials, wineries can choose from paper stock, stick adhesive, and waterproof labels made with industrial materials. Wine bottle labels come glossy white, semi-gloss material, matte white, transparent or feature a cream texture parchment sticker. Another option is a transparent polypropylene label material for a “no label” look. Standard sizes include 5.5-inch by 4.5-inch labels with rounded corners and 3-inch by 5.5-inch oval labels.

Bergin told The Grapevine Magazine that paper, pressure sensitive labels, applied ceramic labels and heat shrink sleeves are commonly used by wineries today.

“Paper has been around for a very long time and is still widely used,” she said. “The alternatives have become labeling innovations in an effort to provide decoration solutions outside of paper. Everyone wants their label to stand out, and having multiple label printing options for everyone is what allows every brand to choose their own identity for packaging.”

Noontime Label’s Noone said that his customers only ask for pressure sensitive “peel and stick” labels.   “They can be printed on many different kinds of materials, from plain paper to textured estate papers, as well as vinyl and clear plastic,” he said. “They’re also available with different adhesives depending on the customer’s needs. Some of our customers recycle their bottles, so the high-tack removable adhesive is a pretty popular choice. Noone said that the “peel and stick” labels have the added benefit of being applied on an automated bottling line or by hand if needed.

“The most common materials our customers buy are the plain paper and the estate paper,” Noone said. “The plain paper is the most economical and can easily have a gloss laminate applied to make it waterproof, and the estate papers add texture for a higher-end look and feel.” Noontime Labels provides different label quantities, from 30 labels up to approximately 10,000 per label design.

Meanwhile, Crimmins of The Label Printers says for them no specific label type is more popular than others because wine branding has changed so drastically over the past 20 years. Wine labels were traditionally printed on paper-based label stock, often described as estate papers, that are suited to the high-end aesthetic for which wine brands strive.

“An equally compelling, but very different, aesthetic can be achieved by selecting one of the many plastic film-based label stocks available in today’s market,” Crimmins said. “For example, a metalized film might be chosen for its ability to give a label, or select elements within that label, a glistening or reflective effect.”

Crimmins went on to tell The Grapevine Magazine that, “It’s important to work with a professional printer who will take into consideration things like the surface onto which the labels will be applied, how they will be applied, and how the product is to be used. That way, they can help the winery make the right decisions about coatings that the material will need and which adhesive will allow the label to achieve a lasting bond with the bottle.”

Engraving Directly onto Wine Bottles

Wineries can also engrave labels and information directly onto the bottle. Engraving is typically more expensive, making it most commonly used for rare releases, special occasions, and milestone gifts. Engraved bottles offer a personalized touch that cannot be mistaken for anyone else’s product.

Laser technology, such as MAG PRO or MAG BOX, can be used for engraving, with custom and ready-to-order designs start at around $18 per bottle, plus a $75 setup fee. Bergin Screen Printing & Etching, for example, offers hand-etched and hand-painted bottle creations, providing an alternative to printing large paper wine labels for bottle sizes between 1.5 liters to 27 liters.

  Choosing the Right Printing and Labeling Strategy

After selecting a label design, assessing the number of labels needed, and determining the amount of labor that label-making will involve, wineries should be able to decide whether it’s best to print their labels or hire a printing company to handle the task for them.

Crimmins of The Label Printers emphasized that the label is what customers see before they taste, or even buy, a bottle of wine.  “Give some thought to how the aesthetic of your label will present your brand and will convey the feelings that you think your brand should evoke,” he said. “An experienced printer will have some ideas that could highlight your brand or support your aesthetic even more effectively than what you come up with on your own. Don’t be shy about asking a printer how they might enhance your label; you may really like their ideas.”

Crimmins understands the attraction of print-it-yourself devices because, after all, why pay a professional to make your labels if you can handle it on your own?    “Well, maybe I can put it this way,” he said, “I think it would be fun to plant some vines, collect the grapes, press them and go through all the steps to turn my juice into wine. Can I expect my homemade wine to be as good as the wine produced by vintners who’ve dedicated their careers to winemaking? Should I expect to make some missteps along the way in my winemaking venture? Maybe that approach is acceptable for a hobbyist. However, if wine is your business, the label really should reflect the same care, professionalism, and skill as you put into the wine itself.”

Nelson of Sara Nelson Design reiterated this point but also offered suggestions on how working with a designer can help wineries take advantage of both worlds.  “For a winery with a small budget, an experienced designer might take advantage of a printer’s collection of stock—cutting dies to save money, or they may design a label such that it can be printed on a digital press at your neighborhood print shop if you want to hand-apply them,” said Nelson. “With a healthier budget, a designer might include luscious finishes like deep embosses, holographic films and foils, laser cutting of intricate patterns, flocking, or more.”

However, Nelson said that high-end finishes are not always affordable or appropriate for winery labels.    “It may seem like a good idea to try to make a $7 bottle of wine look like $20 on the theory that it will look like a great value, but most that try it find that it doesn’t usually work out,” Nelson said. “There are times to use foil, precious metal inks, etched bottles, and such, but go carefully. Your designer should be able to help you think through the cost versus the ROI.”

Bergin of Bergin Screen Printing & Etching says that decisions of whether to hire a company to print labels, self-print labels, or invest in new label equipment depends on the size of the winery.    “When picking a label printing company, we recommend they physically visit their facility or showroom to get a feel for their portfolio of work, as well as the confidence they can produce quality results with precision,” Bergin said. “Choosing a label design and its application medium is a huge decision in the packaging phase for a brand.”

Accordingly, Noone of Noontime Labels advises wineries to take some time to think about what their needs are they can choose the appropriate printer.  “If you’ve been making wine for decades and have specific issues you’re trying to resolve or marketing goals to achieve, then finding the printer who can accomplish what you need at the price you want should be fairly straight forward,” Noone said. “However, if you’re fairly new to the business, you might not even know what you don’t know. If you think you might need a little ‘hand-holding’ and special attention, you need to make sure the printer you choose is willing to provide that.

“Many companies are very willing to educate their customers and actively find solutions for their needs, while some just expect the customer to give them what they need to provide the label that they want,” said Noone. “So, you should make sure your needs match the level of customer service that the printer is willing to provide. Establishing a long-term relationship is optimal, so you won’t have to worry as much if emergencies and problems arise.”

Welcome to Fizz Club

By April Ingram

Over the past 15 years, international sales of Champagne and sparkling wine have strengthened. The increased sales are due, in part, to the increase in exceptional sparkling wines being made in wine regions throughout the world, including Canada. Even though Champagne remains the gold standard, with the rise in quality sparkling wines at reasonable prices, consumers no longer have to wait for a special occasion to pop open a bottle, and sales have skyrocketed.

Belinda Kemp, senior scientist in Oenology at Brock University, wanted to provide a technical foundation for the growth of Canada’s sparkling wine industry, so in 2013 she worked with Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) to create Fizz Club.

According to the Brock University website, the CCOVI was established in 1996 in partnership with the Grape Growers of Ontario, the Winery & Grower Alliance of Ontario and the Wine Council of Ontario. They focus on assisting grape growers and winemakers to produce top quality sparkling wines. Much of the research conducted at CCOVI surrounds the affects soil types have on sparkling wine flavor, mouthfeel, and texture. Kemp works out of her “Bubble Lab,” known for its leading sparkling wine research and outreach work, culminating in an annual event called “Fizz Club.”

Fizz Club is a rare opportunity for Canada’s leading sparkling winemakers to come together and talk shop. The club is members-only, limiting membership to sparkling winemakers or wineries already underway or considering a sparkling wine program. At the event, winemakers discuss the most significant issues facing the Canadian wine industry, hear presentations on the newest research and technology, network, compare notes, exchange ideas, and of course, taste wine.

Each year, the event has grown. In its inaugural year, only a handful of Niagara wineries participated. In 2018, more than 80 winemakers stepped out of their cellars and came together in Niagara, Ontario with the goal of making Canadian sparkling wine even better. To that end, the corks of more than 130 bottles from four provinces were popped while Canadian winemakers talked candidly about sparkling wine production.

In an article in Brock University’s Brock News entitled “How Fizz Club is shaping Canadian sparkling wine,” Simon Rafuse, winemaker at Blomidon Estate Winery in Nova Scotia said, “The winemaking community doesn’t have a lot of opportunities to come together and spend time face-to-face with other winemakers across the country.  To focus in on one specific style of wine, which is one we do extremely well here in Canada, and to be able to spend the time to hear the latest research being done at Brock is a great opportunity.”

In the same article, winemaker Karen Gillis of Red Rooster Winery in British Columbia said, “It is nice to be able to be in a room where you can openly communicate with other winemakers because there are certainly some challenges that everyone faces, to have that opportunity to work that out with other people is great. We are looking to learn from our peers from across the country and share some knowledge and challenges to try to see how we can do a better job and make sparkling wine that is competitive around the world.”

Lawrence Buhler, winemaker at Henry of Pelham, has been attending Fizz Club since the beginning, telling Brock News, “The first Fizz Club was a few of us hanging out tasting wines in a lab, and now you can see how valuable something like this is based on how fast this group has grown. It is great to see people attend from across the country, including veterans in sparkling wine whom you can learn a lot from and people who are pushing the boundaries when it comes to winemaking.”

According to “How Fizz Club is shaping Canadian sparkling wine,” topics discussed at the December 2018 event included yeast strains and pétillant-naturel, also known as “methode ancestrale,” a reemerging process of winemaking where sparkling wines are bottled while they’re still fermenting. Its origins are thought to have been a mistake, with early winemakers thinking fermentation was complete and bottling their wines too soon. The result was a particularly fizzy sparkling wine.

Rafuse told Brock News, “It is great to see the efforts in studying that style, figuring out techniques and ways to make those wines and hearing from winemakers who have experience making them. Knowing where we can focus our own research, and our own trial efforts will hopefully lead to us making better wines at Blomidon Estates and across our industry as a whole.”

Rafuse and other Canadian winemakers are certainly succeeding at creating bubbles that attract attention—winning medals and awards on the world stage—leading to surging sales, nationally and internationally.

Tom Stevenson, one of the world’s leading sparkling wine experts and the founder and head judge for the Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championships, traveled from the United Kingdom to Brock University to sample wines at Fizz Club. “I am really pleased because there are a lot of really good sparkling wines here. After the first flight I found a few potential gold and silver wines,” Stevenson told Brock News.

He hopes some of those potential gold and silver winners will participate in global competitions. “It would increase the profile of Canadian sparkling wine. We haven’t typically had many entries from Canada in the past to really see what these producers have available from a competition perspective,” Stevenson said.

Overall, Kemp found the 2018 Fizz Club to be a success and thinks Stevenson could be on to something with his praise of Canadian bubbly. “I’m so pleased we were able to showcase wines from so many wineries,” she told Brock News. “It is quite incredible to watch the progress of Canadian sparkling wines as we raise awareness of production techniques and tackle challenges with CCOVI research. This is just the beginning for Canadian sparkling wine.”

The Spirit of Alliance: Oregon’s Philosophy of Collaboration

By Robin Dohrn-Simpson

Although Oregon has been home to vineyards as far back as 1847, after the end of Prohibition in 1933, it needed a bit of rebuilding. It wasn’t until the 1960s and 70s that winemakers made the trek from the Mediterranean and mild climates of California to do just that, throwing their hats in the ring to grow grapes in a new and very different terrain.

It was during this time that well-known names like Dick and Kina Erath, Dick and Nancy Ponzi, Susan and Bill Sokol Blosser, David and Diane Lett and David and Ginny Adelsheim put down roots around the state of Oregon and started vineyards. Some had education and training in viticulture; some did not. Most had a pioneering spirit. It is this spirit that has seen them through the trials and tribulations of grape growing and winemaking in a new frontier.

Susan Sokol Blosser chronicles these trials in her book, “At Home in the Vineyard: Cultivating a Winery, an Industry and a Life.” In a state with no tradition in fine winemaking, she and husband Bill helped create one by taking a leap of faith, moving to Oregon without farming or winemaking experience, buying property and planting grapes. The struggle was real and took perseverance. Through trial and error, she and her husband finally harvested their first vintage in 1977.

By 1979 the Oregon wine industry was recognized at the Wine Olympiad in Paris when Eyrie Vineyards’ 1975 South Block Reserve placed in the top ten pinot noirs. In a rematch one year later Eyrie came in second, only 2/10s of a point behind the winner, a 1959 Chambolle-Musigney from Joseph Drouhin. Suddenly Oregon was a force in the wine world.

After Eyrie’s success, Oregon’s wine industry grew leaps and bounds. By 1990, there were 70 bonded wineries and 320 growers. In the same year came disaster—phylloxera—forcing vineyard owners to rip out vines and replant on grafted phylloxera-resistant rootstock. This replanting allowed Oregon growers and winemakers to rethink and resurface stronger than ever.

Collaboration

Eventually, the growing regions were separated into AVAs, and the Oregon Wine Marketing Coalition formed. All the while growers and winemakers collaborated–discussing strategy and banding together in times of need for growers and employees alike. That has never ended.

“Every wine region claims to be collaborative, but in Oregon, it’s truly a close-knit environment. I have worked in other wine regions, and this one really does feel genuinely tight–people make wine together, share equipment, come together to help each other when disaster strikes, and trade knowledge and advice. I’ve been told by several owners that when they started out, the community was incredibly supportive of them throughout the learning curve of starting a winery,” said Julia Burke, Marketing and Communications Coordinator for the Willamette Valley Wineries Association.

“I remember being impressed by the close community when I visited Oregon for the International Pinot Noir Celebration (IPNC) while I was a winemaker in California,” said Anthony King of The Carlton Winemakers Studio. “The Oregon winemakers were friendly and welcoming to those of us from out-of-state, but extremely close and familiar with one another. Now that I’ve been here for thirteen years, I know that camaraderie is true. That spirit, I think, comes from the founders of the industry, who helped each other in the beginning and have continued to help the industry through combined efforts to tell the story of Oregon wine.”

In 1999, state legislators passed HB3429, allowing multiple winery licenses on a single premise, and, in 2002, The Carlton Winemakers Studio formed. This unique facility, pioneered by Eric Hamacher, Luisa Ponzi and Ned and Kirsten Lumpkin as an incubator and home for multiple producers, is the ultimate in collaboration.

Today, Anthony King is one of the winemakers at The Carlton Winemakers Studio and consults as the general manager. When asked about collaboration at the Studio, he mentioned an ongoing project with Patrick Reuter at Dominio I, one of the first winemakers at the Studio. “In 2015, Patrick and I started a collaborative project that we named after our grandmothers, ‘Agnes and Luisa.’ It focuses on Italian varietals and is meant to be a learning experience and exploration,” said King. “We all help each other. Jerry Murray of Project M explained to someone just today that it is easier to help someone and know that you’ll likely need some help sometime later that day. I, for one, love that I can walk around the Studio with a barrel or tank sample and ask ten winemakers whom I respect what they think of it.”

Collaboration is not limited to members of the studio, however. Tim Ramey of Zenith Vineyards in the Eola-Amity Hills told The Grapevine Magazine, “I agree that winemakers are collaborative. Our annual winemaker dinner is a great example of this. We invite all of the winemakers who produce wines from Zenith, and they come and present their wines to each other where the common denominator is vintage and Zenith – the variables are winemaking and vineyard block. It is hugely informative,” he said.

“We borrow equipment. We help each other with vineyard problems. I have even harvested grapes at Seven Springs as a favor to a winemaker since in 2006 there was no one to harvest.”

Winemakers also provide feedback to one another through tasting groups King told The Grapevine Magazine.

“Most winemakers have tasting groups or cellar crawls where they visit each other’s cellars throughout the year,” King said. “One group has been tasting together for years and started https://www.cellarcrawlwines.com. Their tastings have likely helped us all to be better winemakers, as they learned from each other and then passed that knowledge on to the rest of us.”

Vintners Associations and Wine Festivals

Oregon wineries have many vintners associations and wine boards that transcend AVAs. “The Oregon Wine Board covers the whole state, focusing the efforts of AVAs across the state. That organization hosts the Oregon Symposium each year in Portland that is well attended by winemakers, cellar workers, marketing folks, direct to consumer and national salespeople,” King said. “The seminars are designed by people in our industry and each year are pertinent to our ongoing conversations. We also have a research group that reviews research proposals and allocates OWB funds to wine and vineyard research annually.”

“The vast majority of the wineries in this region belong to associations–most of them belong to several, as there are smaller nested AVA associations and then our organization and the Oregon Winegrowers Association and Oregon Wine Board and others. I have noticed a tremendous willingness to talk out differences and resolve issues as a community. Everyone has an eye on perspective and the bigger picture,” Burke said.

With collaboration also comes celebration, in the form of festivals honoring Oregon’s status in the wine world. “The International Pinot Noir Celebration is based in McMinnville and brings us together annually to showcase our wines in the context of some of the best Pinot Noirs in the world. We often find ourselves discussing and formulating seminars that we hope both the winemakers and attendees will find compelling,” King said. “The Oregon Chardonnay Celebration is similar but has not been quite as developed as IPNC, but gets better every year. Oregon Pinot Camp is probably the ultimate of collaboration in Oregon. Each year 280 sommeliers and buyers come from across the country to visit, taste and attend small, intimate seminars. Planning takes the entire year, and the seminars are in a constant state of evolution. Although not all the wineries participate in OPC, I believe that it continues to be the kindling for our industry’s collaboration. Collaboration is a regular topic of conversation with the sommeliers and buyers. They all love the collective spirit and typically one or two of them each year ends up moving here to be a part of it.”

For winemakers in Oregon, community support and collaboration are only natural, given their roots.

“Camaraderie is a part of Oregon’s culture. People are neighborly and value community over competition. Part of it is that we’re a young region. Our founders had already observed other wine regions around the world and came here with intent, and they knew that a rising tide lifts all ships,” said Burke. “Part of it is that we have one focal grape, Pinot noir, and yet an incredible diversity of sites, and it would be crazy not to share knowledge and experience with each other. I think the biggest factor is that about 70 percent of wineries in Oregon produce less than 5,000 cases, which means we trend very small. We have a lot of small producers who rely on each other, and the larger producers remember what it was like to be just getting started.”

What is a Winemaker? (Part 2)

By Thomas J. Payette, Winemaking Consultant

(Part 1 Ran in the January-February 2019 Issue)

Cellar Logistics Coordinator

As winemakers work through the year they are always looking three, four, even eight months ahead.  The cellar picture continues to change as each new harvest “deposit” will lend toward how and what one may want to do with each lot of wine.  Will a reserve be made this year?  With these decisions become handling logistics in the cellar.  Each white wine will either stay in stainless or go to barrel for further aging.  How long will this take place and what rate of extraction will take place this year?  Will the fruit intensity, from this harvest, be able to handle the aging?  Cellars may have up to three or more vintages in them.  Each lot of wine may need to be racked and adjusted from time to time.  Barrels and vessels must be topped on a timely basis.  Bottling schedules need to be planned and often during the harvest months; however, bottlings during harvest are never actually desired.  Often it becomes necessary to push a ready wine toward bottle at this time for the additional tank space.  Sales will affect our cellar operations and once again has us re-dipping into our toolbox to see if we can shift to make the company achieve its goals.  That may ultimately be what it is all about: A great wine that fits the company’s goals and objectives.

Master Blender

Ahh yes – The battles have been fought in the field and the cellar.  The sounds of screaming pumps and the noisy echo rhythm of the cellar are behind us for now.  We are in our haven most people visualize our lives being like.  We are winemakers and this is what people perceive to be daily experiences for us.  This is a great time to review our successes and failures for the wines.  Honestly and blindly criticizing our own products and assembling them to fit our goals and objectives.  This could take several days and we look forward to it; yet, deep down, we all know too long in this environment and we will need some physical stimulation.  We focus tightly on what we have in the cellar, review the chemistries and quantities of each lot making sample blends while looking at sales forecasts, if generated.  Can we make a reserve?  An upper level gangbusters wine?  Do we have a potential label or name for this wine?  The options go on.

Investigator (CSI)

Many of us find ourselves either very pleased with a result and wanting to duplicate it by finding areas we want to change to help get better results.  From this stance we need data.  This data will be collected all throughout our career to be referenced, hopefully, to retrieve the right component that made certain lots olifactoryly and sensorially successful.  Few winemakers are able to kick back in a chair and recall each vintage, what was done, what worked and what did not.  Others rely and can potentially be more helpful to future winemakers if they identify, in a cellar journal or equivalent, what has been successful or not.

People Person

People that like wine generally like people.  They just seem to go together.  The realities of the business also bring the challenges of production making this social beverage.  Not every day is perfect for each individual in this panacea liquid beverage making.  A winemaker may need to be a diplomat with a customer that just did not care for that type of wine.  The wine is not flawed it was just not what the customer expected.  One needs to smooth this perception in most cases to keep loyalty with that customer.  The winemaker on, the same day, may also have an issue with a supplier over a product ordered four months ago that will not be received on time due to a holiday delay or a delay because of waiting to fill a container before departing the country of origin.  Then one must decide to ship a portion by airfreight perhaps just to keep the production on time.  This makes winemakers negotiators using every ounce of communication and people skills possible.  It is, no different in a winery environment.  People skills are needed in ones every day lives no matter what they do.

Marketing Guru

People perceive our jobs as the ultimate job and our products as the ultimate product.  We go to work everyday and make a product they, and we, like to consume.  The packaging is nice, it has romance, it tastes wonderful, and it has ancient history plus mystic.  If we visibly give anyone any other idea than what they perceive we have dropped our products desirability backwards a notch or two.  We must take every chance we get to reinforce and gain ground that our products are just as romantic as they want them to be and that we are just as relaxed and easy going as they perceive our jobs to be.  We can’t expose some of our daily setbacks because after all – it really is a perfect job.  Perception is everything!  It is a panacea!

Summary

Winemakers are often, in warmer climates, seen in shorts and boots cleanly dressed in the morning kicking rocks in the vineyard; yet, potentially splattered by red wine lees by noon from cellar work. We work in the cool when it is hot outside.  Yes, our stained hands often look as though we have been changing oil for the past five years, but we wear these with bashful confidence or as renegade warriors depending on our setting.  It has been said that winemakers make nearly 2000 decisions before a wine is completely made and in the bottle.  Some of us in the trenches may say more than 2000 decisions are made with today’s advances.  We are apprentice sculptures of liquid art. There are few arts that are grown, seen, smelled, touched, tasted, absorbed and mentally alter us, as an elixir, in a positive sense.  Besides, it is also a product that is healthy if consumed in moderation.

Outside of farming and being a fermentation specialist, winemakers have a very keen source of marketing in them.  We can, will, and do sell a lifestyle by how we make our living.  From outsider’s eyes we live a dream.  From the inside view we live a dream.  Deep down everybody wants to be a winemaker.  You can see it when you speak with them.  Live your dream and become a winemaker.  Improve your dream by improving your skills.

The future

There was a time farmers looked out over their fields with hopes their children would be able to move on from the farm to grander ambitions.  Now we look over our fields in hopes our children will be able to live the lifestyle we are able to.  Then as now, if we work hard, our children will have that opportunity!

Short course:

  • Farmer of great raw materials
  • Sculpture and crafter of liquid art
  • Balance the wineglass with the lab results – finesse
  • Marketing a lifestyle
  • Promoter of Panacea

Dedicated to:  Jacques Recht and Jacques Boissenot both apprentice’s of Emily Peynaud.  My honor to them as I have been able to apprentice / mentor under them. 

Thank you!

Are You Protecting What You’ve Worked so Hard to Build?

Picture it – clearing the fields, row mapping, proper drainage, all those plantings – and – your first yield. You have come so far to get to where you are today! Countless hours, lots of hard work and now you really have something – your pride and joy. But now that you’ve come so far and you’re more established, your risks are more significant and there is just so much more to lose. Are you proactively working to protect what you’ve worked so hard to build?

Winter is generally a quieter time and is a good time to identify potential risks that could pose a threat to your business. This can mean many different things to winemakers. For some this refers to risk management and insurance. Others don’t see the need for risk management because they don’t believe their business is very dangerous. And yet others see risk management as focusing on avoiding or eliminating all threats. This isn’t very realistic as it evades the many inherent desirable chances that must be taken to succeed in your business. As an experienced winery owner, you know you are presented with a unique blend of growing and evolving concerns – all of which have to be managed to varying degrees.

Risk management is a way to address the perils you face. You can do this by developing a practical plan to identify, deal with and minimize the adverse effects of the unexpected on your winery business, if or when it happens. In effect, risk management is about forward planning. You can start this forward planning for your own winery by looking inward and asking a few simple questions:

  • “What could go wrong?”
  • “Why are you worried about it?”
  • “What will you do about it?’”
  • “How will you pay for it?”

Now that spring is soon approaching and the frost is about to melt, it’s a good time to go through the process of asking these inward questions to help determine if your winery is ready for the busy season. Doing this will give you the comfort of knowing that you’re better prepared to protect all that you’ve worked so hard to build. Some of the areas you may want to review include:

Your Insurance Program

Wineries are complex businesses that face a wide variety of risks ranging from crop damage, equipment breakdown, fire and even unanticipated incidents that could be financially devastating – just to mention a few. It is important that you insure all aspects of your business and work with your insurance agent to make sure you have the right coverage for all of the risks of your multifaceted and ever changing business.  Changes in your exposures can include the addition of a new tasting room, adding prepared meals to a menu, a concert series or the addition of facility rentals for weddings and corporate events.

Going over your plans with your agent can help eliminate gaps in coverage.  Coverages are available for a range of losses beyond traditional perils.  These include covering wine leakage due to operator error, wine contamination and adulteration, and cyber liability.  Also, don’t forget to find coverage for property damage to your trellis, grapevines and grapes.  Do you have a wine cave?  If so, ensure you are covered for below grade structures.

Updates to an auto schedule or drivers list should be reviewed, as well as the property and equipment limits.  Note that while the buildings may appreciate in value, a lot of equipment general depreciates in value and should be adjusted regularly.  Open communication with your agent about your operations is essential so that there are no surprises for you or them, when your insurance is called to respond.

Good Housekeeping

Take a good look around your premises. Is everything in order? Does it look spick-and-span? Keeping everything at your facility neat and orderly is essential. Maintaining an on-going focus on good housekeeping helps prevent fires and injuries to employees or guests. Routine housekeeping is a win-win scenario – it helps to reduce hazards and creates a well-organized work environment and a satisfying atmosphere.  Check things now and have a plan that regularly monitors:

Buildings and Facilities

  • Exteriors:
    •      Walks, steps, lawns, trees & shrubs, lighting
    •      Check that pallets, rubbish and firewood are stacked away from your buildings.
  • Parking Lots:
    •      Traffic flow, security, lighting, cameras,  pedestrians, weather.
  • Roof Concerns:
    •      Drains, gutters, downspouts, HVAC, age, flashing, access.
  • Entries, Halls and Passageways:
    •    Weather, slip & fall, lighting, security, stairwells, egress.
  • Offices:
    •      Egress, ergonomics, storage, trips & falls, security, cyber risks.
  • Utility & Storage:
    •     Chemicals, other hazards, fire prevention, storage, age.

Equipment

You may be out looking for new equipment at the many upcoming trade shows.  It is important that a qualified electrician has verified that your building electrical system is adequate for any new machinery or appliances.  This is especially true in older or converted buildings.

Have you taken a close look at what you currently own?  Clean your equipment to remove any dirt, grease or other buildup. Once clean, inspect for any needed repairs. Make sure your equipment is in working order.  According to FEMA’s National Fire Data Center, electrical failures and malfunctions contributed to 21 percent of nonconfined nonresidential fires.  Check for frayed, browned, or otherwise damaged electrical cords.

Make sure any machinery moving parts are properly guarded. Lubricate, polish, adjust, realign and calibrate individual parts so that you will get the performance you need during peak season. Your preparation efforts during these colder days will be time well-invested.

Fire Safety

Fire losses tend to be a major concern for wineries and a crucial safety issue for everyone in the business. By taking some precautions, you can better protect your premises and your employees will be better prepared if a fire starts. Some fire safety areas to review:

Fire Safety in Rural Areas

1   Often result in larger losses because:

  • Fires aren’t generally noticed as quickly.
  • Fire department response times can be longer.
  • Water supplies aren’t always adequate.
  • Road conditions may be less than ideal.

2   Talk with your local fire department:

  • Do you have signage that can quickly direct emergency vehicles to your property?
  • Can emergency response vehicles easily get to your facility?
  • Do you have a sufficient water supply?
  • Can the fire department easily gain access to this water supply?

Fire Extinguishers

1   Unintended fires are more likely to happen during normal working hours

2   Fire extinguishers are good first defense against these fires.

  • Have your extinguishers been installed by an approved contractor?
  • Have your employees been trained in their use?
  • Are they mounted on approved brackets?
  • Are they clearly marked, easy to locate and easily accessible?
  • Do your employees regularly check them?
  • Are they annually inspected by your approved contractor and serviced as needed?

Fire Drills and Evacuation Procedures

1   Knowing what to do in the event of an emergency is important to protecting people and property.

  • Do you regularly conduct drills so that employees know what to do if you need to evacuate?
  • Do you routinely check evacuations routes (exits, doors, exit paths, etc.) to make sure that there are no obstructions?

Smoking

1   Simply put, smoking can lead to fires.

  • Do you have a smoking policy?
  • Is this included in employee orientation?
  • Are visitors given instructions when they sign-in?
  • Have you clearly indicated designated smoking area(s)?
  • Is there signage?
  • Are smoking areas equipped with ash trays and fire extinguishers?
  • Are they separated from burnable materials?

Trash and Wooden Pallets

1   It is very important that rubbish and wooden pallets are not stored against or near your buildings. If by chance a fire starts, these can accelerate the fire and threaten the safety or your building(s).

2   To reduce your  risk of these kinds of fires:

  • Store these items away from your buildings.
  • Store trash in metal containers with self-closing lids.
  • Arrange for weekly trash service to reduce the amount of accumulation.

Safety and Health

How well is your safety program doing? A single claim has the potential to not only cause serious pain and suffering to one of your employees, it could also seriously impact your business financially. How often do safety incidents arise on your premises? How have you dealt with them in the past? Have you been successful? What regulations are applicable?

Your safety and health program is an important aspect of your business. Protecting your workers is important to your winery. Make sure you have a written safety program and write it so that it is easy for everyone to understand. Did you include?

  • New employee / job orientation and on-going training.
  • Routine inspections to insure hazards / unsafe practices are identified.
  • Investigations of incidents to make sure they don’t happen again.
  • Procedures in writing so your workers know how to safely perform the tasks expected of them.
  • Regular meetings to discuss safety concerns – your workers need to know safety is important.
  • Safety Data Sheets for any hazardous chemicals and training for proper use of those chemicals.
  • First aid provisions to effectively treat individuals.
  • Personal protective equipment as needed with the training to use it properly.
  • Emergency response procedures to address issues such as fires, chemical spills, explosions or natural disasters so that your employees know how to effectively respond.

Protecting your workers is vital to the success of your operations; now is a great time to make sure your safety program is up to this task.

Security

Security in your winery is also an important consideration. Whether big or small, your winery should be secure. It can help deter sabotage, unlawful entry and protect your physical assets when your facility is unoccupied. Security can also provide a safer environment for your employees.

Early intruder detection discourages burglary and destruction and permits an organized and rapid response when your system is activated. To best achieve early detection of an intruder, consider installing a combination of recognition devices all through your facility. A number of varied sensors are possible:

  • Sensors that detect vibrations.
  • Sensors that detect broken glass.
  • Sensors that detect movement.
  • Sensors connected to doors and windows and detect unauthorized openings.

Some Other Security Questions to Ask Yourself:

  • Do you have security guards or video monitors?
  • Do you have secure locks on doors and windows?
  • Are your valuables stored in a high quality, leading brand safe?
  • Is your safe securely and permanently attached to your building?

It is important to work with someone trained in the careful selection and configuration of security and detection devices suited to your needs and physical setting. Configuring all of these devices into a coordinated control panel will help enhance your system’s ability to detect intruders and minimize unwarranted false alarms.

Summary

Many winery operators are not aware of the many risks within their business and the impact they could have on their ability to stay in business. By taking some time before the busy season begins, you can better protect your operations and be more prepared to address many of the concerns associated with wineries.

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