Wine: To The Glass From The Factory
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
This holiday season, here's something to think about. Many of us have certain assumptions about where our wine comes from, the thwap of the cork, the design of the label. All that conjures up bucolic images of rolling vineyards and wine ageing in oak barrels. Well, sorry to be a spoiler, but it turns out that's the wrong image for most of the wines sold here in the U.S. That's according to a recent story from the Web site The Daily Beast. The headline on that story, "How Wine Became Like Fast Food." That story was written by Keith Wallace, he founded the Wine School of Philadelphia, and he joins us now. Welcome to the program.
Mr. KEITH WALLACE (Founder, Wine School of Philadelphia): Michele, it's great to be here.
NORRIS: Could you walk us quickly through the process just how wine is actually produced?
Mr. WALLACE: Oh, absolutely. It's very easy. If you just think about it for a second, that there are over 38,000 wine shops in America and unfortunately what happens is to get that amount of wine, you have to produce it at an industrial level, which means silos of wine, massive tons of grapes going into these basic factories. And they slap labels on them that imply that they're coming from a real winery, and they're not. They truly are not coming from - and this is about 80 to 90 percent of all wine sold in the United States.
NORRIS: The picture of the vineyard is often on the label. They don't show a factory, they show rows and rows of grapes on the vine.
Mr. WALLACE: They do, and which is beautiful. I mean, that's lovely. And these places still exist, mind you. There are wineries out there that make their own wine. But, unfortunately, when you look at that label, a wonderful vineyard in that chateau, that chateau might exist and that's where you may go when you actually go on a wine tour, they don't make the wine there though. That's just for marketing.
But you can actually tell. When you actually turn over a label, when you turn that bottle over, in the back where all that legal writing is, if it says produced and bottled by in tiny - it'll be tiny lettering, that wine is actually made by a real winery. But if it says something like vinted and bottled by or cellared and bottled by, that is not made by the winery on the label.
NORRIS: Now, you've pulled back the curtain here, and you're also willing to name names - are there well-known wineries that use this process?
Mr. WALLACE: Wineries like this include Francis Coppola, Sterling, Barefoot Cellars, J. Lohr, Kendall Jackson. But it's not just at that low level either, there are high ticket items, very high-brow wines that cost $100, $200 a bottle, that also are not made by the actual winery.
NORRIS: Such as?
Mr. WALLACE: Those include Pommier(ph), Polgin(ph) and Nickel & Nickel. And mind you, Nickel & Nickel, great producer, but, you know, they have historically not made all their own wines. They've outsourced that part.
NORRIS: I hear the sound of people expressing disappointment.
Mr. WALLACE: I know, I know, I know. I am so sorry. I feel like the Grinch. But it's not good or bad. This is not a judgment call. It's just knowing what you're buying. It's the difference between, like, buying free-range chicken or free-range turkey versus a store-bought, knowing that it's a factory raised turkey, it's just knowledge is the most important thing here.
NORRIS: Keith Wallace, it's been a pleasure to talk to you even though you did crush our�
(Soundbite of laughter)
NORRIS: �crush our images of what wine making was all about, but nonetheless, it's been good to talk to you.
Mr. WALLACE: I'm so sorry. Michele, it's such a pleasure. Thank you so much.
NORRIS: That's Keith Wallace, he's the founder and director of the Wine School in Philadelphia. We were talking about his story, "How Wine Became Like Fast Food."
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