Small-scale always best? | New Brief #211

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Britt Karlsson and Per Karlsson, BKWine

Many wine lovers tend to prefer smaller wineries. And the wine world has plenty of them. Do small scale wines have more personality and character than the big ones? Perhaps.

We often buy wine from the small producers. Not always because they are the best (and what does that mean, the “best”?). We rather patronise the small producers than giants like LVMH, Gallo, Penfolds, Gérard Bertrand, Allegrini and others.

We imagine that the smaller ones need our money more than, for example, Bernard Arnault, France’s richest man and the man behind LVMH (Moët & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, Krug, Dom Pérignon, Ruinart, Cloudy Bay, Cape Mentelle and others). But yes, we often think that there is more character in the wines from the small winegrowers. Maybe it is easier to be daring if you are responsible for everything yourself, rather than an employed winemaker facing grim management that wants to see a profit every year. (Nothing wrong with profits, of course.)

If you, for instance, consider sustainability and not least “fair trade” and the like important, then perhaps you prefer to favour those who do not have much, the small producers who often struggle to survive, rather than those who already have everything and more?

On the other hand, behind every wine giant, there are, of course, lots of small farmers. The giants never own enough vineyards. Moët & Chandon probably buys grapes from a couple of thousands of small grape growers. Add to that the fact that almost 50% of all French wine comes from cooperatives. And cooperatives consist of small farmers. Small-scale farming is everywhere, in different forms.

A small family-run wine business that owns its vineyards and does everything from A to Z is the very image of a winegrower in most people’s minds. As a consumer, maybe you feel closer to the whole process when enjoying such a wine, making you like the wine better. But like much else today, it is not so straightforward.

It also has to do with the fact that drinking wine is more than just consuming a drink. Michel Chapoutier makes brilliant wines, but he is hardly the one who made the wine. Maybe he has a dozen winemakers employed. But if you drink a wine from Domaine de Mourchon (see one of the items in this month’s Brief), you know that the McKinley family stood in the cellar and pumped. Wine is also about the people behind the wine.

The size is not always easy to determine, nor if the wine has been made from own or purchased grapes. Today, in upscale wine regions such as Burgundy and Champagne, no one can afford to buy land. If you want to expand your business as a small grower, the only option is to rent vineyards or buy grapes and thus become a négociant.

And it does not have to be such extreme cases as these two regions where vineyard prices reach stratospheric heights. Even in other places, it is not obvious to buy vineyards if you start out as a winegrower (few have the privilege of inheriting their land). In South Africa today, several exciting producers have no vineyards at all but go around the country looking for grapes, often from vineyards that are on the brink of being abandoned. The result is excellent.

The boundaries are blurred. As a wine lover, you mustn’t be too categorical. Still, we love to know the name of the person who really made the wine.

Wine tours

The whole world is hibernating. But now it’s starting to look brighter, quite literally to begin with. In Paris, we have 25 degrees C in the air, exceptional for the end of March. The Magnolia in the park is even starting to shed its flowers.

But far more important than that, the world has started getting vaccinated. Admittedly, it’s going too slow (no matter how fast, it is still too slow), but it’s on its way.

We begin to feel that now we can see the light twinkling at the end of the tunnel. Now we can start hoping to really get going on those travel adventures that everyone have longed for, for so long.

So, we hope for a fresh start to wine travel in the autumn. We have been busy putting together some exciting travel programmes.

We have the classic regions of Champagne and Bordeaux planned for you in the fall and the winter program for 2022 well underway with Chile-Argentina, South Africa and New Zealand. All is set to go. We’re just waiting for you.

Dream yourself away and then take action, go for it. Join us at BKWine on a wine tour.

We look forward at least as much as you do to meet in a vineyard somewhere and enjoy some really good wines, good food and great company.

Enjoy the Brief!

Britt & Per

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This is just the introduction to the latest issue of the Brief. Subscribe to the BKWine Brief and you will get the whole edition in your mailbox next month.

What’s on at BKWine Tours

BKWine is also one of the world’s leading wine tour operators. Here’s what we currently have on our scheduled wine tour program:

  • Bordeaux, September 27 – October 1, 2021

We also make custom designed wine tours.

We’re different than most other wine tour operators. We are people who know wine inside out, who travel constantly in wine regions, who write award winning books about wine. Who do this out of passion. Our tours are different from others. More in wine tours:

Book a wine tour today! »

One of the oldest wine cellars in Marlborough, at Auntsfield, New Zealand
One of the oldest wine cellars in Marlborough, at Auntsfield, New Zealand, copyright BKWine Photography

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