Kelly J. Hayes: WineInk | AspenTimes.com
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Kelly J. Hayes: WineInk

Kelly J. Hayes
Aspen Times Weekly

Those who read this column know that I believe you can figure out the whole world by studying wine. History, geology, climatology, sociology – in fact, nearly all the “ologys” have their tentacles in the wide world of wine.

Ah, but those learned folks who live by numbers feel that the whole universe can be figured out by studying math. And, based on that ones-and-zeros digital thing, I think they may be on to something.

So I started thinking about wine and numbers. I came across some simple but important digits that define wine and how it is produced, sold and consumed. Wine is, after all, a business based on turning soil, sun and plants into profits. If one doesn’t consider the numbers, then the entire operation adds up to, well, zero.

Let’s start with a bottle of wine and work backwards. A full bottle contains 750 milliliters of wine. That works out to 1/5 of a gallon or a little more than 25 ounces. Who cares? Well start with a restaurant or bar that is selling premium wines by the glass.

The average pour, or the amount of wine in a glass in a bar, is right around five ounces. If the bottle cost the bar, say, $20 wholesale (a reasonable price for a premium pour) and they are charging you $10, (likely more at that bottle price), then they are making $50 on that bottle, or two and a half times more than they paid for it. The numbers start to add up.

You know that there are a dozen bottles in a case, right? This is important, because wine is sold by the case to retail establishments and usually when you purchase a case at your local wine shop you will get a 10-15 percent discount. If you don’t, look for a new shop.

So, how many cases of wine can come from a single barrel of wine? Keep in mind that most premium wines spend time in barrels – some in old or used barrels, some in new barrels. Some stay a short time in barrel while other wines may be stored anywhere from 18 months to as long as four years. A single barrel can hold 25 cases of wine. That’s 300 bottles or about 60 gallons of wine.

But before wine can be put in a barrel it has to be grown in a vineyard. How much land, how many vines and how many grapes does it take to make a bottle, or a case of wine?

In this country the standard mode of measurement for a vineyard is the acre. An acre is just shy of 44,000 square feet or about the size of a 90-yard football field. In other parts of the world the measurement used is the hectare, which is equal to just under two and a half acres. We’ll use the acre because, well, we’re here.

An acre of land can, based upon the variety of the grapes, the way they are trellised, and the desire for a level of quality, host anywhere from 500 vines on the low end to as many as 1,300 vines.

Each vine will have approximately 40 clusters of grapes, depending upon the techniques used by the grower, and each cluster will have somewhere between 75-100 grapes.

So that means there are, on average, about 3,500 grapes per vine. The weight of those grapes is about 10 pounds. A high-end winery will usually shoot for somewhere between two and four tons of grapes per acre. Using our model, that means you need about 800 vines to yield four tons of grapes.

So how much wine does four tons of grapes produce? Well, again, on average, a ton of grapes will crush down to 120 gallons of wine. Multiply that by four tons and you get 480 galloons of wine.

Still with me?

Remember, a barrel can hold 60 gallons of wine. So 480 gallons would fill 8 barrels. Again remember, a barrel produces 25 cases and there are 12 bottles in a case. So if you multiply 8 barrels times 25 cases times 12 bottles you get 2,400 bottles of wine on your planted acre.

That’s a lot of digits, to be sure, but you can bet that any successful grape grower has done that math, usually in their head, many times for every acre they have planted.


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