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Chardonnay and Climate Change

Climate change. It’s whispered about by winemakers. Others don’t really to even whisper about it, but we all know it’s there. I’ll be running a series of chats about climate change and how it may change the way our favorite grapes are consumers and really, grown and vinified.

First up in that series, is everyone’s favorite grape: Chardonnay.

Hi all Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures so coming back at it finally so this week, I’ve been writing a little bit about climate change in the wine industry and it’s coming and winemakers are aware of it and some are starting to make some adjustments to what they’re doing because of it.

In some regions of the world namely France there’s only so many adjustments that can be done when a few theological choices in regard to climate change have been taken away most namely you can’t change what you’re planting if you’re only allowed a number of grapes and you can only plant in a certain area.

So I think in California when we start talking about climate change Chardonnay is something that comes up often with people and overall on climate change there’s kind of two things that we’re gonna see happen.

So first, areas that are considered marginal now are going to be considered better over time. Stuff that’s too cold now might not be too cold in a decade or two.

Second higher altitude is going to come into play because as temperature rises altitude is one of the few ways that winemakers and growers can keep grapes acidity.

So what are we going to see specifically for shards so I though this is Trail Marker wine was a pretty good example so it’s a really small production wine it’s sourced from the Santa Cruz Mountains and so that’s kind of what an area that we don’t necessarily think of in terms of a world-class growing region although it is and has been since the Judgment of Paris.

The Santa Cruz Mountains were not well well before that but you know it is a mountainous region it’s hard to get into it’s hard to get out of it’s hard to get people into and out of but what you get is then you get a higher acidity wine.

The fact that as you allow it(ie the grape) to ripen you lose acidity so winemakers have a really crucial choice about when to pick and keep as much acidity as possible.

Growing at altitude like in the Santa Cruz Mountains might allow them to keep acidity while allowing the grapes to ripen more and that’s one part diurnal temperature differences ie it’s colder at night in the mountains of the Valley.

Then secondly there is something just intrinsic to altitude and grapes that seems to happen there’s a lot of research ongoing with that mostly being done in South America the Chileans are kind of at the forefront they have a Pinot vineyard planted the vineyard at the end of the world so-called it’s at 10,000 feet up in elevation which is something that we wouldn’t even consider in the United States.

So the second thing you’re going to see insofar in Chard is how, other than different growing places, you’re also gonna see different winemaking styles coming into play.

I think the other obvious thing that’s gonna happen is that you’re going to see more sparkling wine and so this is a growing market as it is and then secondly we do have to take a second and remember that some of the most successful American sparklers grew it is a great example and those grapes are grown in New Mexico state and the state of Arizona.

Arizona specifically has a number of winemakers doing some really interesting things combining altitude with desert temperatures and I think you’re gonna see more of that for vineyard locations that are just too damn hot compared to what they used to be.

So once again Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures and we’ll have some more climate change kind of stuff coming up you know I know this can be a thorny a political issue at times but we’re just gonna go with the scientific consensus that the earth is warming and we’re causing it.

That’s what I believe and I think that’s what most of my customers would believe and even if we’re not causing it frankly doesn’t matter because it’s happening.

So once again, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures I hope everybody might think a little longer about what their Chardonnay might look like in the next few years.

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100% Satisfaction Guarantee

So, there’s a lot of 100% satisfaction guarantee’s floating around these days. Some of my competitors have them, others say they do, but normally in the wine trade, a 100% satisfaction guarantee doesn’t include if you don’t like the wine.

That’s weird right?

I’ll make this simple here. If you’re shopping from Uncorked Ventures, I want you to be happy with your purchase. If you’re not, I’ll either refund you, or ship you some new wine.

Simple enough, right?

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Palate Differences: Men vs Women

Ok, so we do a weekly dinner trade off with friends. It’s the kind of thing that’s good for the kids, but it’s also good for the adults. After all, anybody with small(ish) kids can tell you. Adult interaction when the kids are in a safe spot, is often difficult to come by. We opened a really cheap, Costco purchased wine one Friday and the opinions from the men vs the women were never more different.

Video Transcription:

Hi Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures, so I’ll hold its up so you can get a good look at it so it’s Kirkwood which as you probably all know already it’s Costco and so this is a cheap Bordeaux.

We won’t do a review today that’ll come a different time this kind of brought up a couple interesting topics so one we opened this with a couple of friends the men didn’t really like it very much and the women loved it.

And that got me thinking about how men and women often experience wine differently.

So a couple things so first there’s a fair amount of research out there that women during their childbearing years have the best sense of smell and taste of any group of humans walking the planet. It’s better than they have it before other childbearing years better than they have it after their childbearing years and better than men ever will have it no matter what.

That research has been done in Brazil it’s also been done in parts of Europe and the United States and I think kind of if we think about it intellectually and rationally it makes some pretty good sense.

There’s also a lot of people that would tell you that yes that can be true, but also more importantly than you’re kind of own state of life I guess it’s a good way to describe it food that you ate before wine that you drank the day before the amount of wine that you consistently drank there’s kind of confirmation bias that happens for sure so if only drink Bordeaux and then I drink a bottle from Napa I often will say hey that bottle from Napa is just not very good because it doesn’t match what I’m used to and so I think there’s all these kind of things that go into it and we have to solve and think like how do people actually experience wine and yes there probably are going to be some gender differences yes there are going to be some differences that happen as our taste buds evolve over time and over years obviously people that are 21 and drank soda a lot for the three years prior are likely to like sweeter wine than somebody who’s been drinking wine for 40 years and is in their 70s so really for the industry I think it’s kind of an interesting comparison and it’s kind of an interesting dilemma and problem and I think it also speaks to the fact that why we need a continually a diverse set of winemakers a new set of winemakers different people coming onto the wine scene for lack of a better term at all times because as consumers tastes change and are different than each other why makers taste change and are different than each other and so having a wider group of people to pull these kind of concepts in these kind of this is what wine should be from is likely to hit more consumers and so yeah that’s a little bit of a intellectual conversation from a bottle of really cheap Bordeaux but I see yeah so so women’s taste buds change over time mens taste buds change and over time and the industry honestly at this point is trying to figure out what to do about all that so once again Mark with Uncorked Ventures I hope you’re all doing well.

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What’s Happening in 2019?

I’ve been ruminating on how to move forward with Uncorked Ventures for a while now.

I survived the holiday rush.

Let’s start with some of what’s already happened. First, I hired an affiliate management company back in November. Quite hilariously, that finally officially happened from the closet of an Airbnb in Phoenix after being evacuated due to smoke. Don’t worry, it was Phoenix, so it was a damn big closet….maybe the size of my bedroom, or more than half of it at least. If you need a good affiliate program, the folks at Advertise Purple are damn good. I’m also very hopeful that the program continues to grow. Given that I attempted to grow this myself for some time and as it turns, I kind of sucked at it….it’s fun to see the program moving in the “right” direction.

Ok, so that happened.

What’s happening next? That’s more important is what happens next.

  • I’ll be running a crowd funding campaign through Indiegogo in the new year. Let’s be honest, being self funded sucks sometimes. Ok, most of the time. So I’ll be working on fixing that.
  • Gift Baskets. For YEARS I’ve watched and written down gift basket choices because we do sell a few of them. I continually am disappointed with the choices. I love Starbucks and Ghiradelli as much as anyone….but why is anyone paying for shipping and a retailer mark up? So these (better) gift baskets are coming. Locally sourced. High quality. Plus, the fine folks at Amazon have finally approved me to sell over there….so you’ll be able to use your Amazon Prime membership, get 2 day shipping and the whole 9 yards. Amazon doesn’t ship wine (wine’s heavy folks, it doesn’t go via air, even with Amazon’s ridiculously cheap rates that border on free)
  • One point in regards to those gift baskets that I think deserves it’s own point: I’m focused on foodie gift baskets. So the focus is going to be on creating a series of “Taste Of” gift baskets. Just locally here in San Francisco there’s so much good food, Oakland too of course…..I want to find those type of products across the country.
  • The wine clubs are going to continue to function much the same. Although I’ll be spending more time in wine country, which I think will continue to lead to better and better quality.
  • Other than that, there’s a lot of under the hood work to do. The beginnings of a real email list. A/B testing the website to sell more wine. Ecommerce as it seems, is a never ending adventure.

I hope that’s enough going on. It seems like it over here.

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Benessere Sagrantino Wine Club Introduction

Weirdest wine I’ve ever shipped? Probably not.  Ok, not even close.  That being said, the most obscure grape I’ve ever worked with?  Almost assuredly so. Here’s some information on the Sagrantino in your monthly box.

Hi, all. Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. So I’ll hold this up so you can get a good look at it. So this is a Benessere Sagrantino. As far as wine clubs go, I think this is kind of one thing that I try be that’s a little bit different than my competitors because I want to kind of expose people to wines and grapes that they wouldn’t necessarily otherwise try.

And Sagrantino, we talked about in the newsletter, this an Italian varietal that’s really not planted anywhere outside of Italy, and this is the only planting in Napa. So, we talked a little bit in the newsletter, if you could read along, it’ll be about the grape itself and about just how Italian varietals are changing in California ’cause there’s kind of these secondary grow regions that are warmer. A lot of the colder ones are doing things differently, but if you’re a warmer growing region, it makes sense to at least attempt some Italian varietals.

And so, we’re seeing that internationally too, and I think that’s kind of a good intro to this wine. So, it grows well in Italy, you’re seeing some plantings in Australia now. United States, we had maybe 1% of the worldwide plantings. But I think as things move forward, you’re gonna continue to see grapes, this grape, and other like it planted in like South America. If you look at … People said Malbec really doesn’t react well in warm weather than when they tried it. It worked better than it does in France.

And so, I think you’re gonna see the Chileans are definitely at the forefront of, frankly, experimentation with, what do we know about this grape and can we change it. They have pinot planted at 10,000 feet in elevation, which is something that if you asked an old world producer or even an American winemaker, they would tell you it’s insane.

And so, I think you’ll see Sagrantino and other Italian varietals continue to be planted in increasing numbers and increasing variety of habitats. I think that’s one thing I hope you can take away from this month’s wine of the month club shipment that things are changing. They don’t necessarily seems like they’re changing necessarily in the wine industry because it changes so slowly. You know, if you put wine in the ground, it takes five years before you have a usable grape. But they are changing, and this is one way that they’re changing.

If you’re kind of a secondary growing region, you’re trying new things ’cause you have to because the cabernet sales are damn hard to come by. Anyway, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures, and if you’re a Special Selection of the Wine Club member, I hope you like this.

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Felicette Wine Review

Felicette is a wine that should be available at specialty shops near you.  A French import, it’s from the lesser known pays d’oc that’s a small section of the Langudoc…..yeah, yeah I know, that’s a lesser known region itself.  This is the region where the French experiment though, with 300 days of sun of year and the Mediterranean there as well, it’s probably a fun visit too. Here’s my Felicette wine review:

Video Transcription:

Hi all, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. I’ll hold this up so you can see it. Yeah, that’s astronauts, or people in space, or people walking on the moon. And if you look a little closer, that’s a cat.

So, this is the Felicette, it’s a rouge wine. A quick primer on what a rouge wine is, it’s just any red wine. And this actually comes from Southern France. This is the pays d’oc which is small fraction of the Languedoc. And so we had a few things to unpack here.

So first, this is a blend and depending on the vintage you get different percentages here of course, but this is Grenache, Sirah & Malbec. And that’s if you’re thinking that’s kind of a weird set up for a French wine, you’re a 100% correct. And that’s the first thing I wanted to talk about.

So the pays d’oc is kind of an interesting thing to know about. So this is extreme southern France, actually borders the Mediterranean on one side and the Pyrenees Mountains on another. Really what happens here is this is the warmest growing region in France and so it’s not only the warmest, but it also is the only one without any long term rules and regulations about what you’re allowed to plant.

So this is the one spot where you see people actually trying new things. And in this case you get these kind of malbec and sirah are not traditionally blended together in France. You get sirah kind of in one side in the Roan Valley and malbec on the other side in Bordeaux. And very rarely do you see Roan’s and Bordeaux’s blended together even in the United States or even in South America you know so this is kind of an interesting thing.

So that’s the other thing so the pays d’oc is a good place to look so it’s a smaller region within the Languedoc so we sometimes talk about southern France and think about the kind of sea of wine that’s gone on there and think of it as the cheap exports for their international marketing. But you also get these kind of bottles for $20 or under. That end up being great, great values. And it’s really in some ways the only place you can look and get a good value wine anymore.

So the story on the bottle, it’s named after the first French citizen to go into space and there is a wine connection here, I promise. So they put a cat up. This is like the early 60s or whatever. Evidently the cat that was training went missing or something so Felicette is the second cat and that cat went up.

So there is this kind of ongoing humor within the small ea community that there are actually more people that have gone into outer space than there are masters of wine. And that’s actually true. There’s about 550 people or so give or take, depending on how we’re counting that have gone into orbit and there’s under 400 people that have been masters of wine since it existed.

So to kind of sum all up, as we look for a good value bottles from international destinations, some of the old world can be difficult to find that kind of stuff. Generation after generation after generation kind of pass these vineyards down in France and if you want to find new winemakers, younger winemakers, newer wine making families that are trying to do new things and for lack of a better term, really move the industry forward, the Languedoc and especially the pays d’oc is one place that you can do that.

So this is a really, really well put together bottle of wine. It is just a traditional rouge. This is meant to be a house red. And it’s smooth, it’s drinkable and if [inaudible] with steak you’re not going to be upset about it. So once again Mark Aselstine for Uncorked Ventures and I hope you enjoyed maybe learning a bit about cats in outer space and a lesser known French wine region producing some pretty darn good stuff. Thanks.

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Apothic Red Review

First, I hope you this Apothic Red review.  I’ve started doing a few of these reviews of mass marketed and mass produced wines, in large part because for my cheap wine club, this is my competition. The under $10 or so bottle purchases are the folks, that might step up to the $20 or so level, which is where wine clubs and other similar online sales models start to make more sense.

Really though, I wanted to do a Apothic Red Review, because the wine is literally EVERYWHERE.  Our local Safeway: it’s on an end cap (literally the most valuable space in the store too, facing the front door with the milk directly behind it).  Our local Target: same. Our local pharmacy: same.

They’ve got to be selling a ton of Apothic red and this is a really competitive marketplace, so I was interested in what this wine was, how good it was and who was actually making it.

Here’s my Apothic Red Wine Review:

Video Transcription:

Hi all, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. So I’ll hold this up so you can get a good look at it and this is obviously not a wine that we sell but I do think it’s a good idea to have some idea about what people are actually buying and this is an Apothic red.

So I’m sure you’ve seen these at grocery store, drug store, probably if you have a local wine shop, they probably have some too. They’re just so mass-marketed and mass-sold that it’s hard to get away from it.

So this is a, to quote the back, Zinfandel, Syrah, Cabernet, and Merlot dumped in together. So it is a red wine blend. A couple things, so this range of wines that are created to be sold. This is not created to teach about a vineyard. This is not created to tell you anything about a varietal. This is strictly a wine that’s made to get you to buy it based on the bottle and then, hopefully, if you like it, to get you to buy again and again and again and to make it easy for you to find vintage non-specific.

That’s why you have these kind of, in some ways, crazy kind of mix of grapes in there. You know, Zinfandel and Cabernet never get blended together and Merlot and Syrah almost never get blended together. If you talk about Cotes du Rhone, it’s only Rhone grapes that get blended together. This is kind of a mismatch of everything. So I think it’s worth a couple minutes, ’cause this may be the most successful wine on the market today, to kind of have a look and see what’s going on.

So first, the Apothic wine label is owned by EJ Gallo and Gallo is the kind of venerable Sonoma name and they do two things. Well, first they buy wineries that are successful and, two, they are create brands and this is a brand not a winery. So this is Debbie Juergenson and Debbie’s not somebody that I know personally nor have I met. She’s the head winemaker on the project and the one thing I will give Debbie … So, when you taste this wine, this was not for me, and that’s not for me because it has residual sugar. We do different part levels and so this is about twice as sweet as Yellowtail is just to kind of put it in perspective.

I don’t tend to like much residual sugar in my wine unless it’s Riesling and so a semi-sweet, I don’t know if you know, they’ll market it as dry. Semi-sweet to most people’s palettes, red, is something that is a little off-putting for me but it’s very in-tune with the current marketplace and it’s in-tune for two ways. So first, we’re moving towards sweeter wines, two, this is the fastest-growing type of wine, these non-vineyard, non-winery specific brands and, three, the alcohol percentage on this guy, it’s like 13.5% only which is kind of a lower alcohol figure.

So you get these kind of intense grapes from regions that probably would produce a much, much higher alcohol content. They probably pick them a little bit earlier but they leave a little bit of residual sugar which not only cuts down the alcohol content but tends to smooth out the tannins. So you get this kind of semi-sweet, smooth-drinking wine for under $10. Well, I think if I’m gonna be honest with them, they think they say it’s $14 but I haven’t yet seen it not on sale so let’s call it $10. And you get this wine that if you enjoy something with some sweetness to it, this is a home run and I think you can see that in the millions of bottles sold for the Apothic wine label.

So, my Apothic red wine review is quite simply, it’s not for me ’cause I don’t like residual sugar. If you do like residual sugar, Ms. Juergenson and the folks at EJ Gallo have hit this one out of the park. If you’ve ever had any chance to hear the folks from EJ Gallo speak, this is highly researched and this is kind of [inaudible 00:03:35], they have these kind of broad consumer profiles and this is a wine made to fit a consumer profile.

So if you’re looking for a semi-sweet bottle of red tonight, the Apothic is probably easy to find and it’s a good effort even if it’s not for me.

So, once again, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures obviously not something for a Wine of the Month Club from us but I think it’s interesting to see what people are interested and who’s to say I won’t run into a semi-sweet red that I like at some point. Have a good one.

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Arizona Wine in Phoenix

Ok, so before I go on…..this was something of a last minute trip.  I have a couple of family members with consistent, recurrent, severe asthma and if you’ve been watching the news….we’ve had the worst air quality in the world locally.

Plus, my little section of the east bay simply isn’t equipped to deal with it.  Few restaurants have ac.  Even fewer houses.  Heck, my oldest son’s elementary school doesn’t even have an air filtering system.

So, we got to get on a plane with 2 hours notice.  To anywhere. Given that we’re already planning to be back in February for spring training and that my wife generally speaking, isn’t a huge fan of the desert, it’s fair to say we were desperate.

So, Phoenix was cheap with miles and the air quality is awesome (at least right now).  Weather’s the same. Awesome.  Although, I’m officially THAT tourist.  I’m rolling around in shorts and a short sleeve shirt, haven’t showered in 4 days, haven’t shaved in a week and the locals are in puffy jackets.

A couple of things struck me about this trip though.  Normally when I travel now, even for pleasure, I end up spending some time talking to local winemakers or local wine shops.  I find it all interesting still after all.

Here’s some of my impressions about the wine scene in the arts district of Phoenix:

  • There’s not many wine shops.  I’ll have a write up and a short interview with the only one I found downtown in a few days.
  • There’s not many spots to buy wine to take home.  But, a TON of on premise sales.  In many ways, downtown Phoenix feels like downtown San Diego.  It’s an ongoing party. I’m officially both too old and the only one with kids.
  • I literally cannot find a bottle of Arizona wine to buy.  This is a HUGE disappointment given that the quality has been good when I’ve had a bottle. I mean, even if they’re only sourcing larger brands then ever a New Mexico bottling of Gruet should be around right? I’ve long thought that Arizona wine might be a logical 4th member of our wine clubs, but this wasn’t a good selling point for that. As an example, in either Seattle or Portland their local wines are EVERYWHERE.

A few more general observations from traveling on the west coast of late, non wine category:

  • Homelessness is an issue everywhere.  We’ve long begrudged the city of San Francisco for not dealing with its issue locally, but the problems in Phoenix feel more widespread and invasive, at least downtown.  We didn’t make it out to the more affluent suburbs like Scottsdale (yeah, yeah I know it’s its own city, but you get my point), but the Bay Area has those too, I get that this isn’t everywhere in the state.
  • Phoenix is so much less crowded than the San Diego of my childhood, or the Bay Area of my current that it’s shocking.

Ok, I’ll have some more content on Arizona wine coming shortly,  There’s a lot to talk about.  But really, they’ll need to start at least placing in their biggest local market before beginning to talk about major placements in spots like San Francisco or Los Angeles.

At least the weather’s been good:

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Patron Saint of Wine

In fact, there’s more than one patron saint of wine. If we look at the history of the Catholic Church, it’s largely centered on the old world wine production regions of Italy and France.  In fact, that’s where the Papacy has been based over the years. Given the number of regions in both Italy and France that have depended on wine for their livelihoods, it shouldn’t be surprising that there’s a deep connection between the historical church and the industry.  Even other regions of the old world take part with their own patron saint of wine, like Spain and much of eastern Europe. But, you’ll also see a heavy German connection, as the closest group of “pagans” the church had long coveted converts in German towns, those doing the work of changing religious preferences in those regions received accommodations like sainthood.

Urban of Langres: A Bishop, forced to flee in the 4th century, Langres supposedly took shelter in a vineyard and while he was there, converted some German winemakers to Christianity.  As you might expect, taking refuge in a vineyard might make you more understanding of winemakers plight.

Martin of Tours: One of the more famous Catholic saints, in large part because he was among the first non martyr’s to be granted Sainthood.  If he were born in the 21st century, even outside of the religious significance we’d say he lived an interesting life.  Born a pagan in Hungary, he was consripted into the army, only to be released after Jesus noticed that he had given half of his cloak (winter jacket) to a homeless man.  He went on to be a Bishop, of Tours, which is a city in the Loire Valley. As the most famous Bishop in the city’s history, he continues to wield special significance to winemakers in the Loire.

Morand of Cluny:  At home in Alsace, a wine region that should be familar to most, Morand made a name for himself by proclaiming that the fast could be broken by eating a bunch of grapes.  So, of course winemakers and vineyard owners revered a saint that was on their side.  Much like the concept of not eating meat, but fish being ok on Fridays during lent (hint, the Pope that created the rule had a family connection to the fishing industry)

Amand of Maastricht: So the connection here is pretty straight forward, he spent most of his time evangelizing in wine regions throughout both France and Germany.

Goar of Aquitaine: Good luck if you can follow his life story, which includes outing a Bishop about having an illegitimate child. But, he spent most of his life working and evangelizing in German wine regions, which is the obvious connection to the industry.

St. Trifon the Pruner: I mean, come on right? Largely centered in Belgium, this falls on what as Americans we think of as Valentine’s Day.  It’s also about the time of year when the first pass of a vineyard needs to take place.

St. Vincent of Saragossa: The official saint of a few towns in Spain, St Vincent didn’t really do anything for wine or winegrowers during his lifetime.  Nor were the cities that he called home, home to the fledgling wine industry.  Instead he may have been tortured to death with a wine press (to me, even with the wide ranging saint stories at play, seems far fetched) and his saint day makes for a good first vineyard pass and also, for a release date for Rose.

Ok, so a patron saint of wine? There’s not really a single one.  Instead, there’s a collection of saints that either had some connection (real of contrived) to wine industry regions in old world Europe.

Hey, it’s the best we’ve got and these connections are going to continue to get played up over time as the industry looks for more interesting and innovative ways and reasons to bring people to the winery at times that aren’t summer, or harvest.

So does it have anything to do with my wine clubs? No, but it’s something that the industry has noticed, especially because the Catholic Church alone is like a billion people.

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How Many Grapes in a Bottle of Wine?

Ok, so this is complicated.

Beware, there’s going to be some math coming up.

There are 750ml in a bottle of wine. A case of wine has 12 bottles. If you’re keeping track, that case of wine is right at 2.378 gallons of wine in a case. Generally speaking we think of a single ton of wine crafting about 150 gallons of wine, or simply 60 cases of wine or around 720 bottles.

Ok, onto the more complicated part of the math. There are 2,000 pounds in a ton.  So each of your 720 wine bottles will have 1/720th of a ton of fruit inside it.  So we’re talking 2.78 pounds of grapes per bottle of wine.

But how many grapes are in that 2.78 pounds? We have pretty reliable numbers for table grapes (it’s about 80) but wine grapes see more in terms of deviation from one varietal to another.  But generally, since people have counted these and weighed them over the years, we know that there are about 250 grapes per pound in terms of wine grapes.

So how many grapes are in a bottle of wine?  The answer is somewhere between 600 and 800 depending on your vineyard, how much it’s watered and the type of wine that you’re drinking.