ask dr. vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs. You can also follow me on Twitter: @AskDrVinny.


Dear Dr. Vinny,

I work in a winery in Hong Kong as a salesman. The winemaker is a local Chinese guy who claims he trained as a winemaker in Canada. The wines are produced in Hong Kong, and are said to be from other countries. But to my amusement, I never see any single grapes arriving in our winery. I suspect his wines are made out of concentrated juice. My question is, will the wines be marketable? Will people drink it in the long run?

—Curious, Hong Kong

Dear Curious,

Since you work there and I don’t, I can only address your questions based on pure speculation.

While many wineries make wine from grapes they grow themselves, plenty of wineries don’t own a lick of land, and instead just purchase grapes. Then there are other brands that don’t even pick the grapes themselves, but purchase grape juice that’s already fermented and bottle it under their own labels. Someone who does this is called a négociant, and it’s pretty standard practice in the wine business.

Grapes are too fragile to survive a long trip from one country to another, and “bulk wine” isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There’s plenty of great juice out there, sometimes due to an oversupply of grapes (think vintage variation), or perhaps a vintner needs to make some quick cash. Bulk wine is a big part of the wine business, and I suspect that’s what’s going on here.

A négociant might “finish” the wine by, say, aging it further before bottling or perhaps making it part of a blend. Or they might just bottle it as is. Will the wine be marketable and will people drink it? Sounds like your job depends on it, so I hope it works out. I’ve found that people will drink wine if it’s tasty enough, affordable enough, or has a compelling enough story or vibe to it. A combination of these factors always helps.

—Dr. Vinny


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