Big wine 8-9-2023

Most wine is produced by a small number of large wineries. At the same time, most wineries are small producers.

In February 2023, Wine Business Monthly reported there were 11,601 wineries in the U.S. Eighty-three percent of those wineries produced 5000 cases of wine or less; 49% produced 1000 cases or less.

Most U.S. wine is produced by one-half of one percent of our total number of wineries. Gallo is the behemoth with production of some 100 million cases a year—more than three percent of worldwide wine output, twice as much as its nearest competitors. Gallo produces more than the combined production of the next four big U.S. wineries—The Wine Group, Trinchero Family Estates, Delicato Family Wines, and Constellation Brands.

Photo: Ser Amanita di Nicolao

The situation is not exactly the same in the other major wine producing countries, but similar. In Europe and elsewhere, there is winemaking where hundreds, even thousands, of grape farmers band together in cooperatives. The co-ops may produce wine for a grower’s label or combine production of many growers under co-op labels or both produce some wine for the grower’s label, then combine leftover grapes into co-op wines.

The reason for this is simple. Many individuals simply do not have enough production to afford all that goes into winemaking—from equipment to skilled labor to marketing and sales.

Large European makers—the big Champagne houses, for example—have equipment and supporting resources, but do not grow enough grapes on their own to meet demands. They buy grapes from growers.

Around the world wine also is produced by négociants. A négociant or négoce is a wine merchant who purchases grapes, juice, or finished wines and then vinifies, bottles, or labels under their own names. Joseph Carr Josh Cellars is a popular U.S. wine that is a négociant operation.

The idyllic wine picture is a sixth-generation family toiling in their vineyard, hand-sorting grapes, and lovingly shepherding juice through fermentation, aging, and bottling. That is true for some wine, but by no means all.

Tasting notes:

• Joseph Carr Josh Cellars Chardonnay 2020 is a showy, crowd-pleasing commercial wine you easily can find thanks to abundant production and distribution. $11-15 Link to my review

• Cantine Ermes Epicentro Nero d’Avola Riserva, Sicilia DOC 2016 is dense, fruity to jammy expression of Sicily’s signature red grape. Made by a cooperative with 2,373 members. $15-20 Link to my review

Last round: This summer is so hot, the local barbecue joint no longer has to burn wood to slow cook its brisket. Wine time.