3 Dirty Secrets of the Wine Industry

By: Mark Aselstine

Every industry, has its own set of dirty little secrets. My dad owned an ice cream franchise in a mall, the common drains had to be covered up because the rodent problems were so bad. Gross right? Likewise, I worked at a defense contractor for a summer. Some of the reported successes of their technology, didn’t match what we were seeing.

Unfortunately, the wine industry has its own set of issues.

Here’s 3 of the dirty little secrets of the wine industry.

People Make Nothing. Literally Nothing. You know the tasting room staff that you adore at your favorite major winery? Yeah, they’re making minimum wage. The cellar master that takes care of so much of the day to day operations in the winery itself? Yeah, he (unfortunately it is almost always a he) makes pretty much nothing too. Heck, the winemaker himself or herself at major Napa Valley wineries barely make 6 figures and cannot even buy houses in Napa Valley anymore, let alone buying a vineyard like they did a generation ago. Of course, there’s an old saying that it takes a large fortune to make a small one in Napa, but really, those small fortunes seem to be going by the wasteside.

Nobody is Permitted: Ok, so nobody wants to talk about this. But, nobody is properly permitted everywhere. Instead, small wineries count on states not wanting to come down on small wineries, plus permits are darn expensive, almost five thousand dollars per year for permits everywhere, at least. As a small example, a small winery in New Hampshire, won’t carry permits because they cost something along the lines of $400, especially since they don’t have hopes of having more than a few customers.

Everyone Uses Organic Principles, Except When They Don’t: Every small winemaker and winery I know, would really like to use organic principles. They all talk about the need and want to be organic. Then pests hit and they’re willing to use some stuff. That’s the rub with organic farming though, when it isn’t easy, it’s important to continue with the principles that you feel strongly about. But really, a lot of wineries will tell you that they use organic principles and surely some of the smaller ones cannot afford the process to verify their organic status, but some don’t go through the certification process because the weeds got too bad, or the gophers were overrunning the root systems. You get my point. Yeah, sometimes organic isn’t possible. Other times, organic is simply hard.


About The Author

Owner and Proprietor of Uncorked Ventures an online wine club and gift basket company, one of the most enjoyable aspects to my job is meeting the people who craft the wines that we all enjoy.

Visit Mark Aselstine's web site