How many acres of vineyards does it take for a winery to go from small to large?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

How many acres is a small winery? How many acres is a large winery? Is there any sort of categorization when it comes to acreage and size of winery/vineyard?

—Jessica L., Fremont, Calif.

Dear Jessica,

Even though the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, there is a difference between a vineyard and a winery: a vineyard is a plot of land where grapes are grown, and a winery is a building where wine is made. Sometimes wineries and vineyards are located on the same piece of land, but not always. Plenty of vineyards are owned by folks who don’t make wine themselves, they just focus on growing grapes and selling them to winemakers. Likewise, there are wineries that aren’t attached to vineyards, from large commercial facilities to winemaking co-ops, where several winemakers all work under the same roof.

Since you mentioned acres rather than square feet, let me answer your question in terms of vineyard land rather than winery buildings. A vineyard can vary from just a few rows to the largest vineyard that I know of, Italy’s Caviro, a winery co-op made up of dozens of wine brands and thousands of growers. According to their website, Caviro owns more than 76,000 acres of vineyards. Those acres aren’t contiguous, however. The San Bernabe Vineyard in Monterey County may be the largest contiguous vineyard in the world, at about 5,000 acres. There isn’t any sort of official classification of vineyard sizes, though I’d consider anything under 10 acres to be small.

—Dr. Vinny

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