Wine Goes Hyper-Local As Urban Wineries Catch On


Dashe Cellars in Oakland; Erin Kunkel for The Wall Street Journal

A vineyard in Napa is expensive and grapes take a long time to grow. But lots of wineries buy their grapes from vineyards they don't own, so why do it out in the country when you can be near your customers?

In Oakland, California, warehouse space is cheap; Ben Worthal of The Wall Street Journal writes that the City actually gives money to people who start new businesses there. The whole operation is low key and low rent; a truck brings the grapes, they crush and ferment them onsite. They don't even own bottling equipment, but instead rely on a mobile bottling service where "a bottling truck arrives early in the morning and winemakers run a large hose to it from their vats. Bottled and labelled wines come out the other end."


Tasting wine at JC Cellars; Erin Kunkel for The Wall Street Journal

It turns our that this is the way it used to be done.

While grapes always have come from rural vineyards, most of the wine sold in the U.S. before Prohibition in the 1920s was aged and blended in warehouses around San Francisco, says James Lapsley, who teaches wine history at University of California, Davis. The vineyard-centric wine culture so familiar now evolved in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when baby boomers started buying more expensive wine and image became important to sales, he says.

More in the Wall Street Journal

It could be greener still if, as an option, customers could bring their own bottles and jugs. That is what happens in France and Italy, where health standards are just as strict as in America. In France, a bottle is refilled and average of eight times. In his post New Wines in Old Bottles, Ruben Anderson concluded:

Mark my words, the first North American winery to start marketing mismatched, reused bottles is going to turn a lot of heads. Imagine a case of pinot noir in stubby Chianti flasks, narrow Alsace bottles, perhaps a flattened Bocksbeutel. What chaos! What excitement!

This could be the greenest wine in North America.

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