Kelly J. Hayes: WineInk |

Kelly J. Hayes: WineInk

This past Sunday evening I opened a bottle of the 2008 “The Stump Jump” Red, an affordable and eminently quaffable GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre) made by Chester Osborn at his d’Arenberg winery in Australia’s McLaren Vale.

You can find it all over the valley, this valley, and it is a great everyday wine. Not only did it pair perfectly with my wife’s house-made-with-love pizza (and the closing ceremonies of the Vancouver Olympics) but it also made me do that thing that I really like to do when I drink a wine. It made me think.

You see “The Stump Jump” is a value wine selling for under $10 here in the States. “So” I thought to myself, “how is it possible to produce a wine, bottle it, ship it halfway across the world, and sell it all for less than a sawback?”

It should be noted that the 2008 “The Stump Jump” is a very good wine. Given the quality and the logistics needed for getting a bottle of this wine from South Australia to my home in Aspen I began to ponder how many hands were involved and how many different people got a tiny piece of the $8.99 I spent on my “The Stump Jump”.

Every bottle of wine is born in dirt. The land where the grapes are grown represent the first and, in most cases, the single most expensive element in a wine. While land costs in the McLaren Vale don’t approach those of, say the Napa Valley or the Burgundy region of France, they are still considerable. And purchasing prime grape-growing properties usually requires the services of lawyers, bankers and such. All cost money before a vine is planted.

Then there are the vines themselves. Rootstock bought from one place clones from another. And before they are planted, workers must clear and tend the soils where the wines eventually will live. All that is bought and paid for before a single bud breaks. And as a rule of thumb one must wait three years, maintaining the vines and tending the soils, before the grapes begin to be useful, five years before they are producing fully.

Once the grapes get to the stage where they are ready to be harvested and made into wine, you need a crew of qualified people to do just that. People to pick and prune, then sort and separate the grapes. And you need a winemaker. And tanks and barrels. The Stump Jump spends time in old, or used, French oak barrels which, when new, cost from $650 to $800 each.

Next you need bottles and, in the case of “The Stump Jump”, a screwcap closure. And you need a label, one that will capture in a glance what the wine’s personality is. To do that you need a designer. By the way “The Stump Jump” name does not refer to a mountain bike as many in these parts assume but rather, pays homage to a type of tractor invented in Australia that clears a field while “jumping” stumps.

So let’s assume that you have run the gauntlet and you have produced a wine worthy of selling. Now the hard part begins. You need to determine who will buy the wine and develop a marketing plan. Perhaps you’ll hire a public relations or advertising agency.

If you are going to export the wine to America as “The Stump Jump” does, you need to contract with an importer and a distributor. Next you need to get the wine to the people who will actually buy it in the States in good condition. Never exposed to too much heat or too much cold as it travels from one hemisphere to the next.

Congratulations – you’ve done all that and someone like me walks into a liquor store in Colorado pulls out a $10 bill and some change for the Feds and buys the wine. And all you get is around six bucks for your bottle. That’s right – the retailer gets around 30 percent of the total sales price. Ouch.

Again, I ask the question “How is it possible?” The answer must be the punch line to that old joke “We make it up in volume.”

More power to ’em.

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