Mark Aselstine
May 24, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

Custom Crush

We had a short conversation on Twitter with a wine blogger friend who let it slip that she was enjoying a Cabernet Sauvignon based blend which she had made at a custom crush facility. It got me thinking that custom crush and making a small amount of wine was something which our customers and readers would likely be interested in.

So what is custom crush? Wine Business does a good job explaining it when they say “Custom Crushing, defined as paying a bonded winery other than your own (if you even own one at all) to process grapes into wine”

The easiest way for us at Uncorked Ventures to look at it is that, sometimes aspiring winemakers don’t have the capital or facilities to make wine at a traditionally styled winery next to the vineyard where the grapes are harvested. We’ve had a number of outstanding wines, many of which come with significant critical acclaim which are produced with purchased fruit and made at a custom crush facility. For a winery first starting using a custom crush in one way or another is the only true way to start without millions of dollars in funding.

Price, of course is one of the driving factors and while no one is explicitly sharing Wines and Vines shares information which is fairly similar to what we have heard privately when they say: “A realistic average in California ranges from about $30 to $55 per case. The upper range makes it pretty hard to produce a “value” wine, no matter how little you might pay for the grapes. “

We’re not much interested in true value wine, Trader Joe’s and other large retailers do a good job there (think $5 and under per bottle), but there does seem to be an opportunity for wine lovers to craft a barrel of wine per year with purchased grapes at a custom crush facility while ending up with a $50 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon for about half that cost.

At some point in the future we’re happy to break down more exact prices for making your own wine, but a new French Oak Barrel runs about $1200, grapes can run $4k per ton/acre (or more, much more) from established quality vineyards, bottles and corks add another $1.50 or so per bottle. As you can tell, there are a lot of factors adding to the price of wine, including the opportunity cost of paying that money for a wine which then needs to be stored for a few years before it can even be bottled.

Custom Crush might not a fit for everyone, but we have to admit, this is something both Matt and I have been intrigued by over the past few months.


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