Log In / Join Now

Ask Dr. Vinny

Do you have a question for Dr. Vinny? Ask it here...

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

Wine Basics

We break down the basics—how to taste, serve, store and more. Plus:
» Maps of major wine regions
» Grape variety characteristics

How-to Videos

Learn to taste wine like a pro, pull a cork with flair, get great wine service in a restaurant and more

Wine Spectator School: All courses are FREE for WineSpectator.com Members

Learn from the experts and get the most out of each sip. Take one of our online courses or take them all—from the ABCs of Tasting to in-depth seminars on Food Pairing, California Cabernet, Bordeaux, Tuscany, Sensory Evaluation and more.

Browse our course catalog
Check out the professional wine sales and service courses
Learn Wine Forum: Got questions? Get answers

WineRatings+ app: Download now for 340,000+ ratings.