MikeL's Guide to WA Wineries

This page will hold tidbit "factoids" that I find interesting. Over time, it will grow slowly, and become organized better...

  • Varietal labeling - Federal
    Federal law allows 25% to be of another variety, 25% from another region, and 5% from another year.
  • Varietal labeling - Oregon
    Oregon law is more stringent than federal -- it requires 95% to be the stated variety. (I do not know if OR law regulates the other parameters differently.)
  • Bottle fill levels & taxes
    The Federal government very closely monitors bottle fill levels. They will take random bottles from a producers lot, and check that the bottle is filled to 750ml. You might be glad to hear this, assuming that the government is ensuring that you're getting all you pay for -- that they're checking that bottles are full. However, this is not why! They're testing to make sure the bottles are not overfilled, as this would mean insufficient tax was being paid.
  • WWC & taxes
    The Washington Wine Commission is paid for by a tax on every bottle of wine sold in WA State -- yes, including wines not made here. This means that when you buy a bottle in WA State, of, for example, California Zinfandel, or a French white Bordeaux, you're paying to help promote WA State wines.
  • It takes approximately 16 lbs of grapes to make 1 gal of wine. This is dependent on the condition of the grapes, and the varietal.
  • A single plant will provide approximately 20 lbs of grapes. This is dependent on the varietal, the condition of the grapes, how severely the plants were pruned, etc -- this is an extremely rough number.
  • In 1998, Yakima Valley white grapes started (non-renowned vineyards) at $0.40/lb ($800/ton), red at $0.45/lb ($900/ton). Better quality reds are more likely to be $1250/ton. Some vineyards with "a name" routinely charge $1800/ton. Prices will change according to varietal, vineyard and year, but this will give you a "ball park figure". (1999 prices were fairly similar, slightly higher.)
  • A normal wine bottle holds 3/4 liter (750 ml). A normal case of wine is 12 bottles, thus a case holds 9 liters.
  • There are 3.79 liters/gallon, thus, a case holds 2.37 gals.
  • Using the lowest likely value of $0.40/gal, and the rough value of 16lbs/gal, we get $6.40/gal of juice.
  • $6.40 / 2.37 = $1.69 (dollars/liter); that times 0.75 is $1.27, thus the minimum cost of the grapes in a normal bottle of vinifera wine is about $1.27 (in 1998).
  • Bottles themselves (just the glass), cost about $0.50 each in smaller winery lots (eg. a few thousand).
  • Labels (self adhesive stickon are more expensive) are likely to cost at least $0.25 in smaller quantities.
  • Corks cost about $0.15. (I'm not including capsules as not all wineries use them, even though most do.)
  • So, a single bottle costs the winery an absolute minumum of $2.27; that's just for the ingredients and packaging.
  • Tons of grapes per acre is dependent on many, many factors, but as a general rule of thumb expect approximately 4 tons per acre. Premium wines will typically be 2 or 3, jug wines may come from vineyards as high as 8 or 9 tons per acre.
  • Using the earlier value of 16lbs/gal, we get roughly150 gals/ton.
  • For a rough conversion of tons of grapes per acre to gallons of wine produced, we get (probably conservative and very rough) 150 gal/ton * 4tons-per-acre = 600gals/acre.
  • Thus, very, very roughly, each acre produces about 253 cases of wine (600gals/acre / 2.37gals/case).

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