Are You Drinking Locally Grown Wine?
Here’s a bit of a puzzle for you: according to a 2010 study by California’s Stonebridge Research Group, Missouri wineries produced about 1.2 million gallons of wine from 4,400 tons of grapes (in 2009). At a glance, you might not notice that these numbers don’t compute. That is, given 4,400 tons of grapes, you should be able to produce (at 160 gallons per ton) only about 700,000 gallons of wine. Somehow, Missouri wineries came up with an extra half-million gallons (2.5 million bottles)–about 40% of the total. Now, Missouri grapes are very juicy, but they are not quite that juicy. So the question is, where did all those extra gallons come from?
Ordinarily, consumers who buy wine made by a Missouri winery simply assume without question that the wine was grown in Missouri. If you look at the numbers above, this is true about 60% of the time–not such a bad gamble. On the other hand, your odds of getting locally grown wine at Blumenhof are 100% because that is all we have ever made. We’re pretty stubborn about this–it’s probably the German in us.
To help illustrate the difference between Missouri wine and Non-Missouri wine, we’ll use some example labels. A Blumenhof Winery label, and a demonstration label (Mount Jamie Cellars is a completely fictional entity).
American Versus Missouri
If you go to your local supermarket and take a close look at the labels on some “Missouri” wines, you’ll see the word “American” or, in some cases, they say nothing at all. Either way, by definition (and by federal regulations) they are not truly Missouri wines, no matter that they are sold by a Missouri winery. Where the grapes actually came from is impossible to determine from such labels but we do know “through the grapevine” that grapes and juice are trucked into Missouri from places like California, Washington, New York, and Michigan. As you may imagine, the cost of the outsourced fruit, which we very often see later marketed as “Local Wines,” is a fraction of what it costs to actually grow grapes locally. In order to be labelled “Missouri,” no less than 75% of the fruit must have been grown in the state of Missouri.
How to Spot a Fake
There are many new wineries here in Missouri. While there certainly are some legitimate wineries popping up, there’s also a new breed of “wineries.” Some businesses label themselves as wineries and are nothing more than restaurants. These “wineries” are usually identifiable by the “Produced and Bottled by …” line on the label. Is the name of the company listed there the exact same as the winery (or restaurant) you’re at? In the example above, it appears as though on the Mount Jamie Cellars label, they abbreviated their business name as “MJC”. MJC (in this example) is just a semi-pseudo business entity that a real winery created so that they can make wine for the “winery” you bought this bottle from.
You may have noticed that the Mount Jamie Cellars label does not say “Produced and Bottled by…” It says “Vinted and Bottled by…” Labels with the terms “vinted” or “cellared” indicate that the wine was NOT fermented at the location listed on the bottle, and was trucked in from some other location. On the other hand “Produced and bottled…” means that the wine was fermented, stored, and bottled all at the location listed on that label.
Is the town listed on the label the same town the winery (or restaurant) is in? If the city listed on the label is different from the city the winery (or restaurant) is in, that winery is more than likely not producing the wine. Now, that may not always be the case. Some wineries do have multiple retail locations and one production/winery facility, but that’s a rarity in Missouri. In the label example, you’ll see that the Mount Jamie Cellar wine was stored and bottled in Big Town, Missouri. If you’re sampling it at a winery in St. Charles, you know that the wine was not bottled at that facility.
We feel like these sorts of practices are misleading. It does make it difficult to determine where your wine is coming from, and who is actually producing it.
If Blumenhof does stand out among Missouri wineries, it may be because we have stayed focused on what we have done since day one: striving to produce the best possible wines from locally-grown grapes. We don’t take ourselves too seriously, but winegrowing is another matter. Back in 1979, when we first planted our vineyards, this was the way it was at nearly every winery in Missouri. But things have changed. The emphasis at more and more wineries has shifted from the arduous (and even risky) task of growing and making wine to engaging in more lucrative activities such as hosting events–weddings, festivals, bus tours and the like.
Of course, there are still a fair number of “Old School” wineries like Blumenhof left on the scene in Missouri. However, it often seems that we are becoming an endangered species.