Tag Archive | wine

Harvest Preparation for Sub-Optimal Fruit: Botrytis

By: Denise M. Gardner

The eastern U.S. growing seasons can be somewhat unpredictable.  Late season rains or untimely hurricane events can be a recipe for disaster for local grape growers (http://www.pawinegrape.com/uploads/PDF%20files/Documents/Viticulture/Harvest/Rain%20at%20Harvest.pdf), and a few have been unprepared for such events in the past.  These weather events can lead to higher incidences of the grey-rot form of Botrytis in addition to other rots, which may also be related to pest damage.  Furthermore, these weather incidences and pest damage can ultimately impact picking decisions for growers and wineries (Osborne, 2017).

It is almost inevitable that wineries need to be prepared for end-of-season weather flops, and plan for the best possible ways to manage or maintain wine quality in light of above-average disease pressure.

One disease that winemakers can prepare for prior to harvest is Botrytis.  For the purpose of this article, we’ll be using the term Botrytis to indicate the grey-mold or grey-rot form of the disease.  Grey-mold, the form of Botrytis more commonly noticed in humid regions or during heavy-precipitation seasons, can ultimately affect wine quality.  Peynaud (1984) has defined 4 ways in which the grey-mold can negatively affect wine quality:

  • Deplete wine color (especially important in red varieties),
  • Increase the risk of premature browning (through oxidative enzymes),
  • Deplete varietal character (through degradation of grape skins), and
  • Contribution to off-flavors developed by the mold’s presence on the fruit.

Botrytis, grey-mold, infection can force winemakers into alternative winemaking techniques in order to retain wine quality. Photo by: Denise M. Gardner

Based on a 1977 study by Loinger et al., guidelines pertaining to wine quality were developed with regards to a visual assessment of Botrytis incidence on incoming fruit:

  • 5-10% Botrytis rot on clusters: noticeable reduction in wine quality; wine quality is still “good” (as opposed to very good with 0% rot on clusters)
  • 20-40% Botrytis rot on clusters: marked reduction in wine quality; wine quality is “low”
  • >80% Botrytis rot on clusters: wine is commercially unacceptable

With a noticeable sensory and chemical difference in Botrytis-infected clusters, it is best for wineries to develop a standard operating procedure (SOP) for assessing rot-infected fruit, as well as how the grapes should be handled and processed during production.  While there is no one correct way to work with the wine, below are some suggestions or options that wineries can integrate when dealing with Botrytis-infected grapes.  For a full list of possibilities, please visit: http://extension.psu.edu/food/enology/wine-production/producing-wine-with-sub-optimal-fruit/fermenting-with-botrytis-101

Pre-Fermentation Sorting

Some wineries will sort through all incoming grape clusters prior to the crushing/destemming process to assess for any cluster damage or presence of unwanted material.  If your operation is not set up with this equipment, sorting can also take place in the vineyard.  Depending on the concentration of disease and on the projected wine style or quality parameter the fruit will go towards, disease portions of clusters can be cut out in the vineyard.  Or diseased fruit can be left in the vineyard to deal with after the harvest is complete.  Sorting out diseased fruit from that of decent quality will reduce the impact of the mold on the wine’s aroma, flavor, and quality.

Limit Contact Time with Skins

Depending on the resource, there are various recommendations for how to handle diseased fruit.  In whites, some recommend whole cluster pressing and tossing the first 10+ gallons, which are rich in Botrytis metabolites (Fugelsang and Edwards, 2007).  Many recommend separating juice press fractions for white and rosé wines, as this will give the vintner more control over the chemical constituents (e.g., phenolics, enzymes, and disease-related off-flavors) in the final wine.

Depending on the desired outcome for a red wine, treating or limiting skin contact with diseased fruit may be ideal post -primary fermentation.  This would include avoiding extended maceration processes.  Due to the fact that the presence of Botrytis on red varieties reduces anthocyanin and phenolic extraction (Razungles, 2010) in addition to the varietal aromatics, excessive skin contact may not be ideal during primary fermentation.  Whole berry fermentations, as opposed to a more aggressive crush and destem process, may help minimize extraction of Botrytis metabolites, which can also contribute to mouthfeel variations or off-flavors.

Tannin additions pre-fermentation may also be good considerations to compensate for phenolic losses associated with Botrytis infection.  Pre-fermentation and post-fermentation additions may help rebuild the wine’s structure or provide constituents for color stabilization.

Flash pasteurization (i.e., flash détente) has been previously recommended for Botrysized fruit to inactive the laccase enzyme associated with Botrytis, enhance color stability in reds, as well as improve the aromatics and flavors associated with the final wine.  Wines that undergo a thermovinification step tend to extract more anthocyanins and phenolics compared to traditionally fermented wines (Razungles, 2010).  Additionally, this heat step helps to inactivate laccase, which can contribute to early browning or oxidation of young wines.  However, commercial producers may not find this technological application easily accessible.

Therefore, in addition to minimizing skin contact time, winemakers will want to reduce contact time with the gross lees, and may also remove the wine from fine lees associated with the mold-infected fruit quickly.  The integration and use of clean, fresh lees, however, is still encouraged.  Removing the lees associated with mold-infected fruit can help reduce additional contact time with rot metabolites that have settled out with the lees.  This inhibits further integration of those metabolites into the wine.

Inoculate with a Commercial Yeast Strain

The presence of rot is one incidence in which processing techniques (e.g., cold soak) that encourage native microflora to dominate the fermentation are probably not desired.  Things like cold soak and native ferments allow ample opportunity for the mold to progress and contribute to the wine’s flavor.

Fruit that has rot or microflora issues is best inoculated with commercial yeast and malolactic bacteria strains to outcompete the native microflora (including those microorganisms that contribute to the rot), and to give the fermentation its best chance at completing the fermentation cleanly.  Remember that proper yeast nutrition is important to support the yeasts’ growth and to reduce the risk of hydrogen sulfide development.  For more information on determining the starting nitrogen concentrations (YAN) and how to properly treat your fermentation with added nutrients, please refer to:

Penn State Extension’s Wine Made Easy Fact Sheet: Nutrient Management During Fermentation

With high Botrytis concentrations, a more robust yeast strain may be preferred in order to quickly get through primary fermentation.  A quicker fermentation may simplify the aromatics associated with the wine, but it will also ensure little opportunity for additional spoilage.  Saccharomyces bayanus strains are often selected as more robust yeast strains.

Use of commercial yeast strains can be a valuable tool when dealing with disease-infected fruit. Photo by: Denise M. Gardner

Use of Sulfur Dioxide

Sulfur dioxide additions at crush will be determined based on the style of wine in which you are producing (e.g., white, rosé, red, etc.), but in general, the use of sulfur dioxide can help inhibit further spoilage of your product and retain antioxidant capacity.  Sulfur dioxide additions in the juice stage will help minimize early browning, but primarily inactivate PPO.

In general, botrysized wines tend to require more sulfur dioxide as Botrytis metabolites bind with free sulfur dioxide (Goode, 2014).  This is true even when processing wines with the noble rot version of Botrytis.

When primary fermentation, and malolactic fermentation (dependent on style), is complete it is a good idea to ensure that the wine has an adequate free sulfur dioxide content in order to retain its antimicrobial protection.


Some fining agents may also be applicable in the juice stage.  For example, some producers find it helpful to fine juice with bentonite in order to reduce protein content, as well as help minimize rot-associated off-flavors or partially reduce laccase concentrations.

PVPP can be added to the juice to reduce potential browning pigments or their precursor forms (Van de Water, 1985).

In both of these scenarios, neither bentonite or PVPP is specific for rot-related constituents, but each could be helpful to avoid potential challenges later on in the production process.

The presence of Botrytis can also contribute glucans to the must/wine, which can cause filterability problems for heavily-infected wines.  In this situation, many suppliers have beta-glucanase enzymes that can be applied either to the juice, wine, or both, to help breakdown the glucans and enhance ease of filterability.

A Word about Laccase

Both polyphenol oxidase (PPO) and laccase can cause early browning in grapes and wine.  However, PPO is inhibited by the alcohol content that is developed during primary fermentation.  Laccase, however, is not inhibited by the presence of alcohol, and can only be inactivated by a pasteurization step, heated to at least 60°C (140°F) (Wilker, 2010).

Grapes tend to be higher in laccase concentration when infected with Botrytis, and, thus, wines produced from grapes that had a high incidence rate of Botrytis can develop a brown hue post-primary fermentation.  This oxidative activity can occur even in young wines.

If you are concerned about the prevalence of laccase in diseased-fruit, wineries can submit wine samples to a wine lab for a laccase test.  Or, if you own a copy of “Monitoring the Winemaking Process from Grapes to Wine: Techniques and Concepts” by Patrick Iland et al., pg. 90 and 94 have 2 laccase test protocols that outline how wineries can assess oxidation by laccase.  The results of these test will indicate if extreme treatments are required during production to avoid the rapid and early oxidation caused by laccase.


Additional Resources:


Literature Cited:

Goode, J. 2014. The Science of Wine: From Vine to Glass. (2nd Ed.) University of California Press: Berkley, California. 216 pg.

Fugelsang, K.C. and C.G. Edwards. 2007. Wine Microbiology: Practical Applications and Proceedings. (2nd Ed.) Springer: New York, NY. 393 pg.

Loinger, C., S. Cohen, N. Dror, and M.J. Berlinger. 1977. Effect of grape cluster rot on wine quality. AJEV. 28(4): 196-199.

Peynaud, E. 1984. Knowing and Making Wine. Wiley-Interscience: New York, NY. 391 pg.

Razungles, A. 2010. Extraction technologies and wine quality. In Managing Wine Quality, Vol. 2 Oenology and Wine Quality. Andrew G. Reynolds, Ed. Woodhead Publishing: Philadelphia, PA. 651 pg.

Van de Water, L. 1985. Fining Agents for Use in Wine. The Wine Lab.

Wilker, K.L. 2010. How should I treat a must from white grapes containing laccase? In Winemaking Problems Solved. CRC Press: Boca Raton, Florida. 398 pg.


Telling your story: Letting consumers know why your brand is unique

By Dr. Kathy Kelley and Dr. Bonnie Canziani*

Every winery has a story to tell about its history and about its wines. A winery’s story often comprises the main advertising message that consumers receive. Critical visitor expectations are being formed as your potential customers read marketing materials about your winery or listen to your staff in the tasting room embellish on “the story,” using it as a performance script during visitor encounters. Indeed, your tasting room hosts are often the main onsite story tellers and serve a vital role as direct ambassadors of the brand and the company—sharing important information with all visitors to the winery.

In this post, we discuss why wineries should have a well-crafted story, examples of national brands that have been recognized as having compelling stories, and steps you can take to develop your story.

Why is a story important?

Researchers have investigated consumer response to storytelling to learn if businesses do benefit from such efforts.  The Origin/Hill Holliday research group conducted studies with 3,000 U.S. consumers, age 23 to 65 years, and investigated their response to winemaker stories. Two groups were shown product pages for four different bottles of California Chardonnay.  Group one was shown the pages with standard tasting notes, while group two was shown three of these product pages and a fourth page with the winemakers’ story instead of the tasting notes.  Based on responses, the researchers found that the second group “was 5% likelier to choose the bottle with the winemakers’ story – and willing to pay 6% more for it” (http://bit.ly/2umZCCE).

Brands that have successfully crafted their story

While both of the following examples are outside the wine industry, each is a successful business with owners who realize that their stories resonate with their clientele and that their narratives support important business strategies.

Being authentic and personable

Dannijo, a jewelry company created by two sisters, was built on the owners’ belief that a story needs to be “compelling to consumers, [such that] they want to build your products into their lives” (http://bit.ly/2tipnzG).  The sisters often model the jewelry in the ads and their social media posts include images of them outside the office and with their families, which helps make them relatable to their target customers.

In their stores, the sisters have installed a selfie booth for customers to take and share images of themselves having fun in the store (http://bit.ly/2tipnzG), and they host speakers who present “unexpected and yet brand-related subjects (e.g., fitness and health, philanthropy and sisterhood)” that are important to the owners and that can interest their primary customers (http://bit.ly/2tMN46Q).

These activities, their core products, and a café all encourage consumers to visit often and to extend the amount of time they spend at the retail outlet on each occasion.

Focusing on customers’ interests

Adidas, like several other brands, sells running shoes.  While their loyal customers will buy their shoes again and again, others are drawn to the business based on how they “feel” about the brand, how the brand helps professional and novice athletes succeed in the sports they love.

Adidas is also credited with being a “listening brand.”  Instead of talking purely about their shoes, the company learns what customers care about and then uses these concerns and passions as a basis for developing the “brand[’s] message through social conversations” (http://bit.ly/2tNdi9h).  Examples of Instagram posts based on follower interests include World Oceans Day, #RunForTheOceans (http://bit.ly/2tN4wbg); Earth Day; sustainable athletic clothing (http://bit.ly/2tMLS3c); and encouraging consumers to perform to the best of their abilities – both on and off the court.

So, what should you include in your story?

A brand’s story is more than words on a page designed to be a pitch for your winery.  Rather, your brand’s story includes “facts, feelings and interpretation” and is a way to differentiate yourself from competitors (http://bit.ly/2tNGkWf).  A successful story will help a business build a following, which in turn encourages these consumers to care about the brand and, hopefully, leads to customer loyalty.  Following are some tips for making your winery story genuine and engaging for your visitors.

  1. Storytelling is based on “interpretation”

Interpretation is a skill that connects your audience with information in ways that create emotional ties between the speaker and the listener. Basically, you take important facts about the wine (e.g., type of grapes or fruit used and production processes) and the winery (e.g., family history or facility information) and share these facts with your visitors in an informative and entertaining manner. A story is not just a dry recitation of facts and figures. Stories attract consumers looking for higher levels of personal recognition and warmth from service staff at your winery.

  1. Storytelling is part of your marketing strategy

Your goals need to be clear when forming and telling the winery story. Typical goals include connecting your guests emotionally to the brand, influencing guests to try something new (e.g., join the wine club or attend a future wine event), and motivating your visitors to buy your wine and share their experiences with others via positive word of mouth. One sign that your guests are engaged is if they ask for more details about the wines, the winery, or the winemaker/owners. A good story will lead to conversation and customer action.

  1. Your stories must seem genuine to your listeners

Storytelling in the winery setting needs to incorporate truthful information about your ingredients, your production techniques, and your business background. Stories create personal ties between the winery and its visitors and people want to be able to trust that the information you are providing is accurate and relevant. The more believable stories will be shared with others via word of mouth after the visit.

Example: Honor Brewing Company & Winery

It seems only natural for a winery to support a cause either with raising funds during an event to donating a portion of the proceeds/price per bottle to a charity.  Sometimes, though, the connection between the cause and the wine brand is not as clear as it could be and why the cause was selected (e.g., to help fund medical research for a disease that an employee has suffered from, to support local community efforts).  Honor Brewing Company, Inc. and Honor Winery owners either served in the military or who had close family members who did.  From the name to the labels (e.g., pictures of dog tags, combat boots) to their mission (“…supporting and celebrating those that have served or are serving…), the brand’s is exclusively “dedicated to the men and women who proudly serve our country” (http://bit.ly/2tO1J1K).

The owners also raise money and donate funds to charities that assist injured veterans and families of those who have fallen – and they are transparent in their efforts.  In 2014/2015 they raised over $200,000 for these charities.  They also encourage social media followers to post about family members in the military and partner with many veteran organizations.

  1. Stories are built on essential raw material

Winery stories need to cover the basics so that every visitor has a good understanding of the wines being served and sold, the fruit that goes into the wines, and other interesting details that make the winery business unique. Proof of quality is often incorporated into the winery story by emphasizing the various awards that your wines have won. The story can move from the past to the present as well as indicate new wines and strategies that are forthcoming in the future. It can also help the visitor identify the role of the winery in the greater community or wine industry in the state.

Example: Gimblett Gravels

When you think of the Gimblett Gravels Wine Growing District, terroir might be one of the words that come to mind.  This patch of land, 800 hectares, once “regarded as the poorest, least productive land in Hawke’s Bay…and no hope of growing a decent crop of anything” (http://bit.ly/2tNlKoN) can lay claim to producing grapes used to make award winning wines: domestically, 600 gold medals and 210 trophies and 105 gold medals and 35 trophies awarded in international competitions (http://bit.ly/2tNqGKD).

Screenshot 2017-07-17 14.45.00

Strict guidelines determine whether a wine can be marketed with the Gimblett Gravels designation.  These measures protect the brand’s image and ensure that growers and winemakers make no compromises and that only high-quality wine that reflects the terroir is bottled with the name and logo of the Gimblett Gravels Winegrowers Association.

  1. Most winery stories are also family stories

The concept of ‘family’ appears either overtly or as a subtext within many winery stories on their websites and during the exchanges between visitors and tasting room hosts. The idea of ‘family’ is represented in multiple ways:

  • remarks about preserving the family farm, land, or agricultural business heritage through the development of vineyards and winemaking operations (the ‘family-business’ message),
  • sharing a history of family generations in the wine-making business (the ‘family-tradition’ message), or
  • an advertising appeal aimed at generating closeness to the visitor based on the inclusive treatment of guests (the ‘join-the-family’ message).

Example: Wente Vineyards

Wente Vineyards in Livermore Valley, CA was founded in 1883 and is recognized as the oldest continuously-operated, family-owned winery in the U.S.  Their story begins with C.H. Wente immigrating to the U.S., learning about winemaking, purchasing land in California, and then…Prohibition was implemented (http://bit.ly/2tNtOpI).

Screenshot 2017-07-17 14.44.48

The family and the business survived hard economic times and war and contributed to the advancement of the California wine industry.  And, if this wasn’t impressive enough, the winery can boast that each winemaker has been a Wente including the current winemaker who is a member of the 5th generation (http://bit.ly/2tNtOpI).  What a story they can tell!

The various family messages can overlap in a single winery story. Family images are also positively associated with consumer perceptions of winery trustworthiness.



In closing

The art of storytelling can be especially useful to wineries that are trying to develop a visible brand presence and uniqueness in the marketplace. Ultimately, winery hosts need to know how to craft and present a winery story that moves their customers to positive actions, e.g., buying wine and sharing winery experiences with others.


*Dr. Canziani is a faculty member at the University of North Carolina Greensboro, Bryan School of Business and Economics, specializing in the management of customer service relationships and business profitability in various sectors including hospitality, tourism, and transportation. Since 2001, she has been involved in marketing and business research focused on the NC wine and grape industry, with more recent emphasis on wine tourism.


July Pre-Harvest Planning in the Cellar

By: Denise M. Gardner

If you are a wine producer in the northern hemisphere, harvest may feel quite far away.  However, given that it is now the month of July, it will be here before we all know it.

Harvest season is just around the corner! Photo by: Denise M. Gardner

The month of July is a great time to start preparing a few essential pre-harvest tasks including getting a bottling schedule ready, especially if bottling operations have not yet begun, and ordering harvest supplies.   This blog post will focus on these two tasks.

Prepare and Enact a Bottling Schedule

New grapes are about to flood your winery with juice and future wine.  Now is the time to review inventory within the cellar and determine what has to be moved and what has to be bottled before harvest begins.

Freeing up previous years’ inventory by moving it into bottle will free up tank, barrel and storage space for this year’s incoming fruit.  It makes for a much easier transition if all of the wines that need bottling are bottled before harvest season starts.  Bottling during harvest is not only chaotic, but it tires employees, pulls resources from the incoming product, and may lead to harvest decisions that may be regretted later.

Always make sure to get bottled wines properly stored and away from any “wet areas” on the production floor.  If possible, bottled wines should have a separated storage area within an ideal environment that is physically separated from production.  From there, stored wines can be moved into retail space when needed.

For more information on how to get wines prepared for bottling, please visit our previous posts:

Bottling comes with its own set of challenges and risks, but several analytical tests can help put a winemaker’s mind to ease regarding bottle stability. Photo by: Denise M. Gardner

Ordering Fermentation and Lab Supplies

Many suppliers and wine labs offer free shipping in July, which can especially be useful for wineries that are not geographically close to a winery supply store-front.  Planning ahead and determining what fermentation supplies will be needed in August, could save extra money.  Not to mention, having supplies on hand during the busy processing season can be a big stress relief.

Winemakers should also take the time to look at new fermentation products and assess the previous year’s needs in order to adequately supply for the up-and-coming harvest.  Keeping an annual inventory of purchases can be helpful to isolate regular needs.

Things to consider purchasing include:

  • Yeast
  • Fermentation Nutrients
  • Malolactic Bacteria
  • Enzymes
  • Yeast Hulls
  • Salts for Acid Adjustments
  • Tannins
  • Pectic Gums and/or Inactivated Yeast Products
  • Fining Agents
  • Oak Alternatives or Barrels
  • Sanitizing Agents

While new yeasts are released frequently, being constructive about the production’s fermentation needs can help isolate what yeasts are needed for the upcoming harvest.  I typically recommend that all vintners have at least 5 strains on hand for harvest: 2 reliable strains that will get through primary fermentation with little hassle, 1 strain that can be relied upon for sluggish or stuck fermentations, and 2 strains for specialty needs (e.g., sparkling or fruit wine/hard cider production) or experimental use.

Select and purchase your yeast strains in July to take advantage of free-shipping promotions. Photo by: Denise M. Gardner

Fermentation nutrients should be a must-have for all wineries to help minimize the risk of hydrogen sulfide.  Always double check nutrient requirements for yeast strains purchased.  In general, wineries will need hydration nutrients (e.g., GoFerm), complex nutrients (e.g., Fermaid K), and diammonium phosphate (DAP).

For more information on why YAN is important and how yeasts utilize nitrogen during primary fermentation, please visit the following blog posts:

If you need further step-by-step instructions on how to determine adequate nutrient additions during primary fermentation, please visit our Penn State Extension fact sheet: Wine Made Easy Nutrient Management during Fermentation

Sometimes hydrogen sulfide will arise in a wine by the time primary fermentation ends despite all preventative care.  Making sure there are adequate supplies on hand, such as copper sulfate and PVI/PVP can save time in the future.  Also make plans for ways that the production can reserve fresh lees.  PVI/PVP is a fining agent that can help reduce metals like residual copper, but fresh lees will also help reduce the perception of hydrogen sulfide aroma/flavor and residual copper in the wine.  Having a plan for retaining and storing lees during harvest season can save time during challenging situations that develop through the end of harvest and into the winter’s storage season.  A fact sheet on copper screens and addition trials can be found at the Penn State Extension fact sheet: Wine Made Easy Sulfur-Based Off-Odors in Wine.

I also like to make sure we have supplies on hand in case of heavy disease pressure come harvest.  This includes things like Lysozyme, beta-gluconase, pectinase or other clarification enzymes, and fermentation tannins.  Lysozyme can help reduce lactic acid bacteria levels while beta-gluconase can assist clarification problems associated with Botrysized wines.  For further information on how to manage high-disease pressured fruit, please visit the Penn State Extension website on Fermenting with Botrytis or Managing Sour Rot in the Cellar.

Double check the storage requirements for all materials purchased before and after the product is opened.   It’s important to store all of those supplies in the winery properly as it will ensure their efficacy by the time the product is needed.

Ensure Your Wines are Stable Before Bottling

By: Denise M. Gardner

It’s that time of year again: bottling time! The past year’s vintage is slowly starting to take up too much room in the cellar and now is the time for decision making in terms of preparing for the pending vintage.  Finalizing a good bottling schedule before harvest starts is an essential good winemaking practice, but bottling comes with its own set of challenges.

It is not uncommon for winemakers to express feelings of “not being able to sleep at night” when wines get bottled, as they are worried about possible re-fermentation issues.  As wine naturally changes through its maturity, it is easy to feel insecure about bottling wines, especially those wines that may have had challenges associated with it throughout production.

However, there are several analytical tests that winemakers can add to their record books every year to ensure they are bottling a sound product.  The following briefly describes a series of analytical tests that provide information to the winemaker about stability and potential risks associated with the product when it goes in bottle.

Bottling comes with its own set of challenges and risks, but several analytical tests can help put a winemaker’s mind to ease regarding bottle stability. Photo by: Denise M. Gardner

Basic Wine Analysis Pre-Bottling:

This first list is the bare minimum data that should be measured and recorded for each wine getting bottled, regardless of the wine’s variety or style.  Keeping accurate records of these chemistries is also helpful in case something goes wrong while the bottle is in storage or after it is purchased by a customer.


pH is essential to know as it gives an indication for the wine’s stability in relation to many chemical factors including sulfur dioxide, color, and tannin.  For example, high pH (>3.70) wines provide an indication that more free sulfur dioxide is needed to obtain a 0.85 ppm molecular free sulfur dioxide content.  At the 0.85 ppm molecular level, growth of any residual yeast and bacteria in the wine should be adequately inhibited.

High pH wines tend to have issues with color stability.  At this point, color stability can be addressed by blending or with use of color concentrates (e.g., Mega Purple).  Keep in mind that if the wine is blended with another wine, all chemical analyses, including pH, should be completed on the blend (as opposed to average individual parts) prior to bottling.

Free and Total Sulfur Dioxide Concentration

In the United States, total sulfur dioxide is regulated and must fall under 350 mg/L for all table wines (CFR: https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SID=eddaa2648775eb9b2423247641bf5758&mc=true&node=pt27.1.24&rgn=div5#sp27.1.24.a).

However, the free sulfur dioxide concentration provides an indication to the winemaker regarding antioxidant strength and perceived antimicrobial protection.  To inhibit growth of yeast and bacteria during bottle storage, a 0.85 ppm molecular free sulfur dioxide concentration must be obtained.  The free sulfur dioxide concentration required to meet the molecular level is dependent on pH.  Therefore, free sulfur dioxide additions should be altered and based on a wine’s pH for optimal antimicrobial protection.

Analytically, it can be daunting to measure free sulfur dioxide as the wet chemistry set up looks intimidating.  However, many small commercial wineries have benefited from the integration of a modified aeration-oxidation (AO) system, and with a little practice, have been relatively successful at monitoring free sulfur dioxide concentrations.  A few wineries have worked to validate use of Vinmetrica’s analyzer (https://vinmetrica.com/), and found results comparable to those obtained by use of the AO system.

Residual (or Added) Sugar

Any remaining sugar in the bottle, whether through an arrested fermentation or direct addition, can pose a risk for re-fermentation post-bottling.  This is especially true if the winery lacks good cleaning and sanitation practices.  Nonetheless, it is a good idea to assess the sugar content pre-bottling to record a baseline value of the sugar concentration going into bottle.  If bottles were to start re-fermenting, a sugar concentration could be analyzed and used to compare against the baseline value in order to assess the potential of yeast re-fermentation.

For wineries with minimal residual sugar concentrations, a glucose-fructose analysis (often abbreviated glu-fru) is often used to help determine accurate sugar content.  For wines with added sugar an inverted glucose-fructose analysis may be required.

If you are concerned about potential risk for Brettanomyces (Brett) bloom post-bottling, it is usually encouraged to reduce the sugar content in the finished wine below 1% (<10 g/L sugar) in the bottle.

Malic Acid Concentration

While using paper chromatography to monitor malolactic fermentation (MLF) is useful, it does not give an accurate reflection of residual malic acid concentration.  In fact, some winemakers find that a paper chromatogram may show a MLF has been “completed,” but would prefer to have lower residual malic acid concentrations remaining in the wine.

During my time at an analytical company, 0.3 g/L of malic acid and below was considered “dry.”  This is typically a safe level of residual malic acid to avoid post-bottling MLF.

Volatile Acidity

Volatile acidity (VA) is federally regulated, and levels are indicated in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR: https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SID=eddaa2648775eb9b2423247641bf5758&mc=true&node=pt27.1.24&rgn=div5#sp27.1.24.a).  For most states, with California as an exception, the maximum allowable VA for red wines is 1.40 g/L acetic acid (0.14 g/100 mL acetic acid) and for white wines is 1.20 g/L acetic acid (0.12 g/100 mL acetic acid).

Monitoring VA through production is a good indicator of acetic acid bacteria spoilage.  At minimum, wineries should record VA

  • immediately post-primary fermentation,
  • post-MLF,
  • periodically through storage (e.g., every 2-3 months) and
  • pre-bottling.

Whiling monitoring VA, sharp increases in VA should alarm the winemaker of some sort of contamination.  Typically, these increases are caused by acetic acid bacteria, which can only grow with available oxygen.

Alcohol Concentration

As a general rule of thumb, knowing the final alcohol concentration is a good idea.  Alcohol content helps determine a tax class for the wine and is required for the label.


Extra Analysis:

Titratable Acidity (TA)

All wines are acidic in nature as they fall under the pH 7.00.  However, titratable acidity (TA) acts as an indicator for the sour sensory perception associated with a given wine.  For example, two wines, Wines 1 and 2, with a pH of 3.40 may have different TAs.  If Wine 1 has a TA of 8.03 g/L tartaric acid while Wine 2 has a TA of 6.89 g/L tartaric acid, Wine 1 would likely taste more acidic (assuming all other variables are the same).

Titrations are an easy analytical testing method to learn and understand when testing wine’s chemistry. Photo by: Denise M. Gardner

Cold Stability

Cold stability tests are often recommended to ensure the wine is cold stable, and will, therefore, not pose a threat of precipitating tartrate crystals during its time in bottle.  Not all wines require a cold stability process (e.g., seeding and chilling).  Cold stability testing can be done prior to a cold stabilization step in order to avoid extraneous processing operations, saving time and money.

For more information on cold stability processes and testing, please visit Penn State Extension’s website: http://extension.psu.edu/food/enology/analytical-services/cold-stabilization-options-for-wineries

These crystals on this cork illustrate what can happen when a wine is not properly cold stabilized. While the tartrate crystals pose no harm to consumers, they may find the crystals unappealing or questionable. Photo by: Denise M. Gardner

Protein Stability

Additionally, haze formation is a potential risk post-bottling.  While hazes do not typically offer any safety threat to wine consumers, they often look unappealing.  Protein hazes tend to make the wine look cloudy.  Some varieties are more prone to protein hazes then others, and running a protein stability trial could minimize the risk for a protein haze in-bottle.

It is important to remember that due to the fact protein stability is influenced by pH, cold stability production steps should take place before analyzing the wine for protein stability and before going through any necessary production steps to make the wine protein stable.  This is due to the fact that cold stability processes ultimately alter the wine’s pH, and the chemical properties of proteins are influenced by the pH.


Analysis for Those that May Consider Bottling Unfiltered:

Yeast and Bacteria Cultures (Brett, Yeast, Lactic Acid Bacteria, Acetic Acid Bacteria)

Having a microscope in the winery can be a great reference point in terms of scanning for potential microbiological problems.  However, if the winery does not have a microscope, but knows that some microbiological issues or risks may exist in a wine, having a lab set test the wine on culture plates is a good indicator for potential growth risks during the wine’s storage.

If the wine is going to be bottled using a sterile filtration step, keep in mind that wines are not bottled sterile.  Assuming the absolute filtration method is working properly, the wine has potential to become re-contaminated with yeasts and bacteria from the point of which it exits the filter.  In fact, it is not uncommon for wines to pick up yeast or bacteria contamination during the bottling process.

Managing free sulfur dioxide concentrations can help inhibit any potential growth from contamination microorganisms if the proper antimicrobial levels (0.85 ppm molecular) are obtained at that wine’s pH and retained during the bottle’s storage.

4-EP and 4-EG Concentrations for Reds

For wines that may have had a Brettanomyces (Brett) bloom, knowing the concentrations of 4-EP and 4-EG in the wine going into bottle is a good result to keep on file.  If a Brett bloom occurs later in the bottle, it is likely (although, not guaranteed) that the volatile concentration of 4-EP and/or 4-EG may increase and confirm the problem.

Furthermore, evaluating a wine for 4-EP and 4-EG concentrations can also help isolate a possibility of Brett existence, especially if their concentrations are below threshold.  However, it should be noted that both compounds can also exist in wines that are stored in wood, even without a Brett contamination.

Double Check: PCR for Reds

Brett can be a tricky yeast to isolate and identify.  It is usually recommended to run multiple analytical tests related to Brett in order to confirm its existence or removal from a wine.  While culture plating identifies living populations of microorganisms, PCR cannot typically differentiate between live and dead cells as it is measuring the presence of DNA.  A microorganism’s DNA can get into a wine after yeast death and through autolysis.  Therefore, a positive PCR result for Brettanomyces is hard to confirm if the result includes live cells, dead cells, or a combination of both.

Culture plating can help confirm the presence of active, live cells, but the success rate of growing Brettanomyces in culture plates is variable.

Nonetheless, scanning wines by PCR for Brett can help winemakers isolate a general presence and risk of Brett in their wines.

Wine samples prepare for analytical evaluation. Photo by: Denise M. Gardner

Still Worried About Your Wine Post-Bottling?

Bottle sterility

Bottle sterility testing is helpful, especially when a winemaker wants to ensure wines have been bottled cleanly.  For this type of testing, it is best to sample a few bottles

  • at the beginning of a bottling run,
  • immediately before any breaks,
  • immediately after any breaks, and
  • at the end of a bottling run.

Bottles can, again, be evaluated under a microscope and evaluated for the presence of microorganisms.  Bottles can also be sent to a lab for culture plating.  The growth of yeasts or bacteria from culture plates at this stage indicates a failure of the sterile filtration system or contamination of the wine post-filtration.  Clean wines, obviously, should help put a winemaker’s mind at ease as it matures in bottle.

Ensuring a wine’s stability post-bottling is a challenge.  However, with proper cleaning and sanitation methods coupled with the right analytical records, winemakers can reduce their worry.  For information on any of these topics, please visit:


Using Social Media to Engage with Customers: Filters and Stories

By Jennifer Zelinskie and Dr. Kathy Kelley

We have written a few blogs on social media, how to use the tools, and our survey participants’ use of these tools to connect with wineries and tasting rooms.  You can learn what Snapchat is and the number of U.S. adults who use Facebook and Instagram in one of our more recent posts: http://bit.ly/2o44NFy.  We are finishing our social media series by describing a couple of features that wineries, tasting rooms, wine festival organizers, and similar can use to engage with consumers and enhance their experience.

Snapchat Filters

 If someone has shared a Snapchat photo with you and it looked as if it was embossed with words/phrases, cartoon images, or a business’s logo, the person who took the photo likely applied a filter to decorate the image.

If the filter also included the name of the location then it is likely a “geofilter,” which would only be available to Snapchat users who are in a certain geographic area.  For example, a Penn State University filter was available April 19, 2017 (see below) but only to those who were on the University Park campus, based on the GPS signal that their smartphone was emitting.  Once I left this “area” the filter was no longer an option in the Snapchat app.

Screenshot 2017-04-19 13.26.33According to Spredfast.com, “Geofilters are most popularly used to represent a location or event, but they can also help spread the news of an upcoming release, or trigger participation in a campaign” (http://bit.ly/2m874tv).

Imagine the power that a filter could have:

  • A wedding takes place at your winery, you host an event, or are present at a wine festival, and you promote that a filter is available on Snapchat (which includes either your winery’s name, the festival, etc.).
  • Visitors take photos with Snapchat, apply the filter, and then share the photo with others who follow them on Snapchat. The photos can also be saved to a smartphone or tablet and shared via Facebook, Instagram, email, etc.
  • Those who receive the photo see what a great time attendings are having at your event or tasting room – hopefully prompting them to visit.


While the following provides guidelines for designing Snapchat geofilters, some of these tips are applicable when creating filters using other social media tools.

  • Your design:
    • Be sure to keep the middle of the screen open and free from any design (http://bit.ly/2m874tv).
    • One source suggests that the design “shouldn’t take up more than one-third of the screen space (http://bit.ly/2m8fX69). Your design should include your logo, but it should be “secondary to a good design” (http://bit.ly/2m8mptY).
    • Snapchat may reject geofilters with designs that cover the “entire frame or take up too much space in the four corners of the frame” (http://bit.ly/2m8mptY).
    • Consider developing a few different geofilters so that your customers have some choices. This also gives you the opportunity to highlight more than just one key activity during your event.  According to Ashley Ranich, one could have a “strong typography” and the other could include a “fun illustration.”  She also suggests that offering two or more filters can help you determine which filter is more appealing based on use (http://bit.ly/2m8mptY).
  • Font color considerations:
    • If your geofilter will be used at night, or in dark spaces, use light font colors so that your text is visible (http://bit.ly/2m874tv).
    • The reverse is true if the filter will be used in the sunlight or well-lit area. You’ll want to consider darker text font colors (http://bit.ly/2m8fX69).
  • Some minimums and maximums specific to Snapchat:
    • The minimum cost for a geofilter is $5.00, which will cover a 20,000-square foot area (slightly less than ½ an acre) for one hour. It is suggested that you make the geographic area a little larger as “geo-targeting isn’t quite as precise” as it could be (http://bit.ly/2m8fX69).
    • The maximum coverage area is 5 million square feet (approximately 115 acres) and a campaign cannot last for more than 30 days (http://bit.ly/2m8fX69).

You can upload your own design, use one of Snapchat’s templates, or create one using their online design tool, which provides business designs (with generic themes) and special occasions (e.g., weddings, birthdays, current holidays, events).

Personal geofilters cannot include “branding, business marks/names, or logos, and doesn’t promote a business or brand” while a business geofilter can be used to promote your tasting room and include marks, logos, etc. that you own (http://bit.ly/2mKCkmG).

Screenshot 2017-04-20 10.26.03Screenshot 2017-04-20 10.28.28

The one-hour campaign yielded the following:Screenshot 2017-04-20 10.26.10


‘Uses’ and ‘views’ “include any repeated views or uses from the same Snapchatter” (email exchange with Team Snapchat, March 9, 2017).

What was the return on investment?  If all 28 views were unique, meaning that 28 individuals viewed snaps with the geofilter, then our cost per impression was 18 cents.  If 14 individuals viewed the snaps twice, then our cost per impression was 36 cents.

Facebook Filters

Facebook recently introduced “frames,” which can be used to decorate profile pictures or photos that were taken using the Facebook camera feature on a smartphone or tablet.  You can take a tour by clicking on the following: http://bit.ly/2o3NmoK.  A few stock frames are available (see below), and Facebook users can create custom frames.

Designing your own frame

A desktop tool like Photoshop is needed to design and build the frame (no design tools are available in the Create a Frame app), which then needs to be uploaded to Facebook.

Screenshot 2017-04-19 12.41.40


Screenshot 2017-04-19 11.38.45The frame can be available to “everyone” (regardless of where they are located) or just Facebook users in a particular area (instead of drawing a “fence,” like when designing a Snapchat geofilter, a “pin” is used to identify a location on a map).  Facebook users can search for your frame based on the name you provide (e.g., Happy National Wine Day!) and/or keywords (e.g., wine, festival, party).  By indicating that “Penn State Extension Enology” owned the frame – followers may see Denise’s photo/PSU Enology next to the frame, which can also help users find it.

Facebook Frames, like Snapchat Geofilters, need to be approved before they are “live.” As of today’s posting, we have not been able to learn how much a frame costs.



Instagram Stories

 Instagram is primarily a mobile-oriented social network, but it does offer some capabilities when viewed in a desktop web browser. Similar to other social platforms, Instagram allows users to engage with one another through following each other, liking posts, saving photos, commenting, tagging, and sending private messages between users. Filter and editing options, as well as geographical location tagging, can also be applied to pictures and videos users upload (http://bit.ly/2oRyCZh).

Additionally, Instagram allows users to change their account to a business profile, which provides business-related insights, including: “top posts,” “promotions,” demographics of “followers,” and days/times they are most active on the network (photo below).

Screenshot 2017-04-20 10.18.08

Another way to communicate with social media followers, keep them informed about your winery tasting room, and generate a response is by creating “stories” – a series of images and video that “lets you share all the moments of your day… in a slideshow format” (http://bit.ly/2o4VWUa).   While Facebook and Snapchat also allow users to create stories, we will focus on Instagram Stories and what you can do with this “feature.”

Instagram Stories

If you follow Instagram users who are creating stories, you will easily find them at the top of your main feed (they look like “little photo bubbles of the users you follow”), and you can access them for 24 hours after they have been posted (http://bit.ly/2oRyCZh).

Screenshot 2017-04-20 10.17.02

To view a story, tap the user’s photo. Tap on the right side of the screen to skip to the next post or tap the left side to go back. Swipe left to skip to the next user’s story.

To post your own story, select the “Your Story” icon at the top left of your main feed page and take a photo or video. You can apply filters, text, drawings, and stickers to enhance your post. You can read more about all the features Instagram Stories offers here: http://bit.ly/2auWwCJ.

Screenshot 2017-04-20 10.18.33

Screenshot 2017-04-20 10.19.01

Instagram Stories can be a great way for wineries and tasting rooms to engage with followers. Businesses can post photos of new products, videos of events held at the tasting room, harvest, stages of vine growth, and even post videos of the winemaker explaining processing techniques. The fact that they only remain visible for 24 hours adds an element of urgency and could encourage followers to view stories before they disappear.  Another way that wineries and tasting rooms could use the story feature is to post a picture of a coupon that can be redeemed during the 24-hour period.  You can also target specific Instagram followers and send the story directly to their Instagram account.  But instead of being visible for 24 hours – after they view it, they are only able to replay it once and then the photo will disappear.

Social media is always evolving, and one of our goals is to identify tools that might be of value to your tasting room and give you a bit of insight as to how you can use them. These are just a couple of ways that you can use social media platforms to engage with customers, and they do require a bit more time than just posting a quick photo; however, depending on your customer base you may get much more interaction and a greater reaction than a quick photo.

Who is the Mid-Atlantic Wine Consumer? Demographics, Behaviors, and Psychographics

By: Jennifer Zelinskie and Dr. Kathy Kelley

Currently, over 100 million people in the U.S. drink wine (vino-california.com). Although knowing and understanding the characteristics that describe the U.S. wine consumer are extremely important, keying in on wine consumers who live in the Mid-Atlantic, and who have better access to wines produced in the region, can provide even more valuable information. Demographics (age/generation, income, race/ethnicity, gender, education and income level, and similar) can help winery and tasting room owners understand “who” their customers are, while behaviors relate to likelihood of using a product (e.g. consumers who drink wine, consumers who purchase wine produced in certain regions) and level of usage (super core, core, and marginal wine consumers), and psychographics (attitudes) describe how consumers “feel” about wine.  Hence, it is important to understand how wine fits within the context of the Mid-Atlantic culture and detect if any subcultures exist that would warrant even more specific marketing messages, promotions (http://bit.ly/2fdAq6B), pricing strategies, and packaging (http://bit.ly/N8jBfo).

According to The Upfront Analytics Team, there are five key ways consumer demographic information can be used in a marketing strategy.  Specifically, to:

  1. understand who the ideal customer is based on their tastes and preferences (e.g. knowing what appeals to super core wine consumers, what Millennials prefer to drink),
  2. lower marketing costs by using the information to target customers more efficiently (e.g. using Facebook as opposed to traditional media to reach younger generations),
  3. identify new opportunities based on gaps in the current marketing strategy (e.g. marketing wine as being sustainable to reach consumers who are environmentally-conscious, marketing low-calorie wines to health conscious consumers),
  4. create unique selling points through marketing stories that appeal to your target customer (e.g. conveying what your brand represents, what makes your wine/tasting room unique), and
  5. better engagement, through the use of steps 1-4, which can lead to increased sales (http://bit.ly/2fdKEE7).

There is no question that knowing specifics about your customer is crucial. Certain segments are more likely to pay more for wine than others, or they may prefer dry/tannic style wines as opposed to sweeter wines (http://bit.ly/2fvApi8). Engaging different age groups can mean utilizing different means of communication or presenting your brand’s message in a unique way. Millennials, for example, love to experiment with wine, are drawn to hip, modern packaging and show very little brand loyalty (http://bit.ly/2fhl8yy).

Description of “Who” Purchases Wine Produced with Grapes Grown in New Jersey, New York, and/or Pennsylvania

Of the 1,038 consumers who participated in our March 2016 survey, 648 of them (62.4%) responded that they had purchased wines produced in at least one of the three states: New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania.  This blog post focuses these participants, and we will use an abbreviation to remind our readers when the data presented is for those who were Mid-Atlantic Wine Purchasers (MAWP).

In Table 1 you will notice that slightly over half of the MAWP were female (57.4%) and approximately half lived in New York (49.5%), which is quite similar to the descriptive statistics of all 1,038 who participated in the survey.  We have included these data for consumers age 21 and older based on 2015 U.S. population estimates.


Other demographic variables that describe survey participants who purchased wine produced from grapes grown in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania:

  • less than a third (30.9%) were members of Generation X, between age 36 and 51, or were Older Millennials, age 27 to 35 years (24.7%, Figure 1),
  • had a Bachelor’s degree (34.9%) or had an Associate’s degree, technical degree, or similar (31.2%, Figure 2), and
  • had an average household income of $76,000 to $99,999 (22.1%), $100,000 to $149,999 (21.0%), or $50,000 to $75,999 (20.5%, Figure 3).

Figures 1 to 3.  Select Demographics (e.g. Generation, Education Levels) of Survey Participants Who Purchased Wine Produced from Grapes Grown in New Jersey, New York, and/or Pennsylvania and All Survey Participants.


Other demographic characteristics that described the Mid-Atlantic Wine Purchasers were:

  • 47.5% resided in a suburban area,
  • 70.1% were married or in a domestic relationship,
  • 55.2% had no children living in the household, and
  • 59.8% participant and one other individual in household drinks wine.

Mid-Atlantic Wine Purchasers Consumption and Buying Behaviors

Of our MAWP, 55.9% were “super core,” which is slightly higher than the percentage of all survey participants who were categorized as being “super core” wine consumers (49.3%, Table 2). Participants were also asked to select the frequency that best described how often they purchased bottles or containers of wine. Approximately a quarter (26.2%) of our MAWP purchased wine “two to three times a month” during an average year, which is similar to the percent of all survey participants who purchased wine at this frequency (25.9%) (Table 2).


What Wine do Mid-Atlantic Wine Purchasers Consume and Buy?

Participants were asked to respond to several survey questions to help identify what wines they consumed most often in regards to level of sweetness/dryness and the type of wine (e.g. white, red).

Based on responses, 35.2% of Mid-Atlantic Wine Purchasers indicated that they preferred to consumed dry wines and an additional 32.9% responded that they preferred to consume semi-sweet wines (Figure 4).  Pertaining to type of wine, 51.5% preferred to consume red wines and an additional 31.8% preferred to consume white wine (Figure 5).


Mid-Atlantic wine purchasers were asked to indicate from which of the three states (New Jersey, New York, and/or Pennsylvania) and other states/regions they would purchase wine for four different occasions (Table 3).  Participants were also asked to indicate which price ranges they were willing to pay for wine produced in the three states for both “everyday” occasions and for special occasions or celebrations (Table 4).



Based on this information, Mid-Atlantic wineries and/or tasting rooms could develop specific marketing messages to inform and remind consumers that their wines can be served during special occasions as well as enjoyed “everyday.” For example, they could promote that their wine pairs well with holiday meals, snacks typically served during sporting events (e.g. Pinot Noir with pretzels, Chardonnay with chips & nacho cheese, http://bit.ly/2eHJB3y), and/or desserts/fondue that are often served when entertaining (e.g. Late Harvest Riesling with Plain Cheesecake, http://bit.ly/2fisUYO).

Wineries and/or tasting rooms can also communicate with consumers that their Mid-Atlantic wines could be perfect to give as a gift.  For example, those located near universities, historic areas, etc. and have wine named after the region/activities/refers to the school should remind consumers that the wine could be an appropriate graduation gift or to celebrate occasions associated with the historical sites.  Wineries and/or tasting rooms can also promote the restaurants where their wines are served or tasting room staff can suggest a local BYO restaurant and then recommend one of their wines to pair with the meal.

Data presented in Table 4 provides insight as to what prices MAWP reported paying for all wine they bought, not just wine produced from grapes grown in the Mid-Atlantic, for both occasions.  Perhaps consumers have asked you why wine you (or others in the area) produce is more expensive than similar wines from outside the region.  This is an opportunity for you to inform them about why your price is higher (you produce small quantities of wine, production methods differ from mass-produced wine, etc.).  It may seem redundant or you may feel that your customers are familiar with the reasoning – but consumers need to be reminded (again and again) about your brand/what makes your business different from competitors in order for them to truly remember.

How do Mid-Atlantic Wine Purchasers Learn About Wine?

Participants were asked to select, from a list of 11 sources, all the sources they used to learn about wine.  Or those presented, the top five sources were:

  • friends and/or family (75.8%),
  • wine and liquor stores, including the employees, promotions/advertisements in the store, and/or sent via email or postal mail (65.6%),
  • winery tasting room staff and/or promotional/advertisement in the tasting room, and/or sent via email or postal mail (47.4%),
  • food and cooking magazines (e.g. Food & Wine, Bon Appetite, Food Network Magazine, Cooking Light) (43.2%), and
  • general online search using a search engine (e.g. Google, Bing, Yahoo) (38.6%).

The least selected sources were:

  • television/radio programs (cooking channel, local or national news segment) (21%),
  • local and/or regional magazines (online or print) (18.4%),
  • national and/or local newspaper articles (online or print) (16.4%), and
  • educational classes (e.g. short duration of 1 to 2 hours, long duration of 2 to 8 hours and/or multiple day workshops of 2 to 5 days) (8%).

It is important for wineries and/or tasting rooms to understand which sources consumers use to learn about wine. Not only are these sources helpful in determining where to place advertising and promotional messages, but to provide information that the source can then use to inform consumers about wine, pairing suggestions, how to store wines, etc.

How Can a Winery and/or Tasting Room in the Mid-Atlantic Region Apply This Information?

Knowing who purchases wine made from grapes grown in the three targeted states (New Jersey, New York, and/or Pennsylvania), prices participants paid for wine in general and what wines (sweetness/dryness level and type of wine) they prefer, among other data presented, can help wineries and/or winery tasting rooms develop more appealing products and better targeted promotional messages. In upcoming blog post we will continue to present data that describes the behaviors and psychographics of the Mid-Atlantic Wine Purchaser, as well as other segmentations that we feel will be valuable to wineries and/or tasting rooms in the region.

Additional Researchers & Jen Zelinskie’s Thesis Advisory Team:

  • Denise Gardner, Extension Enologist, Department of Food Science, The Pennsylvania State University
  • Ramu Govindasamy, Professor, Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics, Rutgers University
  • Jeffrey Hyde, Professor, Agricultural Economics, The Pennsylvania State University
  • Brad Rickard, Assistant Professor, Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University
  • Karl Storchmann, Clinical Professor, Economics Department, New York University; Managing Editor, Journal of Wine Economics
  • Michela Centinari, Assistant Professor of Viticulture, Department of Plant Science, The Pennsylvania State University

The project “Developing Wine Marketing Strategies for the Mid-Atlantic Region” (GRANT 11091317) is being funded by a USDA Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program grant, whose goal is “to assist in exploring new market opportunities for U.S. food and agricultural products and to encourage research and innovation aimed at improving the efficiency and performance of the marketing system.”  For more information about the program, visit http://www.ams.usda.gov.

Mid-Atlantic Wine Consumer Attitudes and Behaviors Pertaining to Sustainable Wine

Dr. Kathy Kelley and Jennifer Zelinskie

A quick search for “sustainable” on Winespectator.com and other consumer-oriented wine magazines and websites generates quite an extensive list of articles and news:  assessments about organic wine tastes compared to nonorganic wine; what biodynamic and sustainable means; and consumer awareness of sustainable grape and wine production issues.  At Penn State we have been focusing on whether wine consumers in the Mid-Atlantic region are aware of the “sustainable” wines concept and their thoughts and interests in these wines, packaging, and related.  This blog focuses on some of these issues and shares some of our survey participants’ “sustainable” attitudes and behaviors.

While organic viticulture may not be commercially viable for Mid-Atlantic producers, there are opportunities to market a vineyard/production’s devotion to sustainability or practices that are incorporated into the production for sustainable purposes.   Though you may not be considering organic grape or wine production, we still believe it is important that we present these data and trends so that you are as informed as possible.  

Mid-Atlantic Wine Consumers and Sustainable Wine

In a March 2016, we were able to conduct a second Internet survey with Mid-Atlantic wine consumers, all of whom drank and purchased wine at least once the previous year. Through this survey, we investigated issues related to sustainable grape and wine production and their purchasing behaviors regarding these wines.

According to 2015 Cone Communication Millennial Corporate Social Responsibility Study (http://bit.ly/2fjmVX0), 83% of U.S. survey participants responded that they would buy a “product with a social and/or environmental benefit.”  When segmented based on U.S. generation, 87% of millennials (age 18 to 34 years at the time of the survey) would buy the product.

Other data focused on reported behavior.  For example, “in the past 12 months” 56% of participants had bought a “product with a social and/or environmental benefit” and 37% “researched a company’s business practices or support of social and environmental issues.”  Again, when segmented by generation, 59% of millennials indicated that they had bought such a product and 40% researched a company.

For our research, we were interested in learning about our participants’ “sustainable” wine purchases, which could be considered a product that has a social and/or environmental benefit. When asked if they “specifically look for and buy wine that is marketed as being sustainable,” 27.1% of our participants responded “yes” to the question.  With continued interest in what appeals to wine drinkers based on demographic characteristics, we segmented data based on the generation our participants identified with (access the following URL to learn more about U.S. generations: http://bit.ly/2e7HFwX).

We found that other than “Baby Boomer” and “Greatest/Silent” generations, a quarter or more of participants in each generation responded that they did look for/buy sustainable wines (Figure 1).  While nearly a third of “Younger Millennials” and “Generation X” participants looked for/bought this wine (28.6 and 31.3%, respectively), a higher percentage, 39.7%, of Older Millennials responded that they sought out/purchased the wines.


“Sustainable” encompasses many different grape and wine production philosophies, methods, and strategies. A 2011 Internet survey conducted by Penn State researchers sought to determine whether specific types of “sustainable wines” would encourage more survey participants to purchase them compared to a “standard wine that [was] not produced with sustainable, organic, biodynamic, or similar grapes or processed using these methods.” Data from 910 Philadelphia and New York metropolitan area wine consumers was segmented based on wine purchasing frequency (e.g. purchased wine at least once a week) (Table 2).

Of the seven sustainable wine options included in the study, more participants who purchased wine “at least once a week” responded that compared to the “standard” wine they would purchase wine:

  1. made with “sustainably farmed” or “naturally farmed grapes” (47.9%);
  2. marketed as being sustainable (38.3%);
  3. Certified Carbon Free (27.8%);
  4. made with “biodynamic grapes” (19.2%); and
  5. “biodynamic wine” or “Demeter Certified wine” (19%) than participants who purchased wine less frequently (http://bit.ly/2fgIUOD).


In our March survey, we investigated consumer interest in select grape growing and wine production practices.

Over half of all participants were either “very interested” or “extremely interested” in all six practices presented. Pertaining to the individual practices, 35.5% of participants were “extremely interested” in “wildlife protection and/or native plant conservation practices,” which was a higher than the percentages for “very interested” to “not at all interested” (Table 2).

In the case of the other five practices, the percentages for “very interested,” and “moderately interested” in the case of “cover crops used in the vineyard to control weed,” were greater than the percentages for “extremely interested.” The percent of participants who were “not at all interested” was less than 6% for all grape growing and wine production practices.


Sustainable Packaging Components

A survey conducted in 2015 by Tetra Pak and the Global Footprint Network found that 86% of survey respondents “said that if they knew that use of renewable packaging contributed to reduced carbon emissions and helped slow climate change, it would impact their choice of packaging” (http://bit.ly/2dPBuMZ).  In addition, 69% of the participants indicated that they look for food and/or beverages sold in renewable packaging.

If the wine you are producing is “sustainable,” then it would make sense that the packaging is as well.  In past blog posts we have focused on different container sizes, which could factor into a consumer’s definition of sustainability (e.g. http://bit.ly/2eJO4ik; http://bit.ly/1FzZ8dA).  With great attention focused on wine containers, closures, and packaging components that may be more environmentally friendly or appeal to younger wine consumers, we investigated our participants’ level of interest in some of these alternative wine packaging types and components.

Percentage of participants who were “very interested” in the wine packaging types/components ranged between 28.2% for “closure is made from renewable polymers derived from sugarcane” to 38.6% for “glass bottles used are up to 27% lighter than ‘regular’ wine bottles.” While percentage of participants who were “extremely interested” in these types/components ranged between 17.5% for the “renewable polymer” closure to 28.3% for “wine container is recyclable, biodegradable, or compostable.”


A future blog post will focus on container and closure recycling and what might motivate a wine consumer to return bottles to a tasting room to both encourage them to “be green” and repeat sales.

Sustainable Winery Tour Opportunities for the Mid-Atlantic

You may be well aware of Sonoma County Winegrape Commission/Sonoma County Winegrowers commitment “to becoming the nation’s first 100% sustainable wine region…to be completed” by 2019 (http://bit.ly/1I0YlSy).  But, perhaps you are less informed about the existence of wine tour operators in the region that offer winery tour packages that cater to consumers specifically interested in visiting organic, biodynamic, and sustainable wineries. North of Los Angeles, Sustainable Vine Wine Tours in Santa Barbara also provides these wine consumers with an experience and incorporating details that fit the overall theme and purpose:

  • customers visit the wineries in “an all-electric, luxury Telsa Model X SUV powered by home solar system” (http://bit.ly/2ePODbl) and
  • lunch includes local and organically grown produce, grains, and poultry that “is naturally raised without growth hormones or antibiotics” (http://bit.ly/2fj10PT).

With the existence of sustainable and organic wineries located in the Mid-Atlantic region and efforts such as the Long Island Sustainable Winegrowing organization, which lists over 15 certified vineyards and wineries, and couple in transition (http://bit.ly/2dLQ5O8), perhaps the time is right for industry members to focus more heavily on “sustainable” wine tours, and consider the type of transportation used and food that is served during theses experiences.  Perhaps more exclusive packages could be offered with green/sustainable/etc.:

  • lodging,
  • suggestions for local/sustainable/organic food markets, farmers’ markets, restaurants,
  • car rental facilities that rent hybrid vehicles,
  • other environmentally-friendly activities and events, and
  • options for ground transportation to bring them to the region as well as local transportation.

In addition to these components, the materials used to build the tasting room facility and/or other buildings may interest this segment of wine consumers.  As part of our initial investigation of this concept, we asked our survey participants’ awareness and interest in LEED certified buildings (a global green building certification program, http://www.gbci.org/certification) on the winery property or used in the wine making process.

Less than a third of our participants had heard of or were familiar with the concept of LEED buildings (Figure 3).  Of these participants, the presence of a LEED certified tasting room and/or other winery buildings 27.1% would be “somewhat influenced” and “very influential.”  Less than 17% of participants responded that these buildings would be “extremely influential” (16.4%), “slightly influential” (15.4%), or “not at all influential” (14%).


In Conclusion 

With the number of options available for a business to become/increase their sustainable efforts, the question is not whether to become sustainable but what “environmentally-friendly” aspects make the most sense for the business.  As many of our readers know, we encourage businesses to survey customers before making changes, no matter how insignificant they may seem, to learn how current and potential buyers will react.  Whether it is a change to the packaging/closure/labels, grape production and wine making practices, new building construction, etc. consider how your customers will (and if they will) value these changes and enhancements.  If you currently incorporate sustainable practices, no matter how small, remember to inform consumers about what you are doing to improve their (wine drinking) world.

Additional Research & Jen Zelinskie’s Thesis Advisory Team:

  • Jeffrey Hyde, Professor, Agricultural Economics, The Pennsylvania State University
  • Denise Gardner, Extension Enologist, Department of Food Science, The Pennsylvania State University
  • Brad Rickard, Assistant Professor, Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University
  • Ramu Govindasamy, Professor, Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics, Rutgers University
  • Karl Storchmann, Clinical Professor, Economics Department, New York University; Managing Editor, Journal of Wine Economics
  • Michela Centinari, Assistant Professor of Viticulture, Department of Plant Science, The Pennsylvania State University

The project “Developing Wine Marketing Strategies for the Mid-Atlantic Region” (GRANT 11091317) is being funded by a USDA Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program grant, whose goal is “to assist in exploring new market opportunities for U.S. food and agricultural products and to encourage research and innovation aimed at improving the efficiency and performance of the marketing system.”  For more information about the program, visit http://www.ams.usda.gov.