What’s So Great About Being Small?

11 Jun

By Doug Minnick, Co- Founder, The Garagiste Festivals

carucciglassWhat’s the big deal about small production? What difference does it make, and who really cares how much wine a winery makes?

We know that “craft beer” has re-shaped the brewing industry, but what does that really mean when a “craft” producer such as Sam Adams makes over 2.5 MILLION BARRELS per year? And garagiste winemakers are making about 60. Not sixty million or sixty thousand. Sixty. Six-0.

The average consumer gives barely a thought to production levels, so what are they actually buying when they buy “craft”? Usually it’s big flavors, creative and out-of-the box approaches that large producers eschew for various reasons, and when it comes to wine, the winemaker’s personality and artistic approach makes a big difference.

You won’t find garagiste* wines in supermarkets or large liquor chains amongst the Cab and Chard – they just don’t have enough wine to satisfy the requirements of big distributors and restaurants who don’t want to have to re-print their wine lists regularly.

And perhaps most importantly, you won’t find the big wineries making this incredibly wide range of varietals and styles. Not only are these micro-producers making every grape imaginable, but Garagiste winemakers are taking experimental and sometimes risky approaches like whole-cluster fermentation, extended maceration, native yeasts, low-alcohol, biodynamic farming, blends, and more that often result in unique and exciting wines.

125Most of these approaches just aren’t practical in the large volumes of the supermarket wine producers. These techniques are the purview of the small winemakers; true artisans in the purest non-marketing sense of the word. They are changing the way wine is being made and a whole new audience is discovering that this kind of hands-on, artistic winemaking is worth seeking out.

Wines from these producers can be hard to find even in small shops and restaurants in their own backyards. Most do not have the time or resources to market their wine widely, and the financial realities of making wine in these tiny amounts demand that winemakers sell directly to the customer with no middle-man as much as possible. It helps to know them personally.

And how do you do that? Most don’t have tasting rooms, aren’t on wine country maps, and are too busy tending the vineyard and making the wine to do much in the way of selling. Determined wine country travelers who are seeking them out may find one or two on any given visit, but they are not easy to find.

6394d0f7-7e90-4a38-bb4a-5dae245acee5Personal connections with their customers are crucial, and much like independent musicians, winemakers can develop an “artist/fan” relationship with their audience. For the consumer, finding an undiscovered winemaker before they get big scores in the Wine Spectator or sell out their wine club list is very much like finding a new band in a club before they have a hit record and being able to brag about it to your friends for the rest of your life. I knew them when!

That’s what makes the Garagiste Festivals such “a crazy thrill of discovery” according to KCET TV. Our unique festivals bring together over 60 micro-production wineries at one time and give wine consumers a chance to not only taste these ultra-premium, cutting-edge wines, but to meet the winemakers themselves, who pour at these festivals. Not salespeople or brokers; the winemakers themselves. This is true passion on display, face to face and in your glass. These folks love to meet their audience and tell their story.

Your next opportunity to explore these cutting-edge wines (and yes, some Cab and Chard, too!) will be at The 6th Annual Paso Garagiste Festival, from November 11-13th. Come join us and discover where the wine world is going.

Get your tickets today!

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