The Wine Newbie Explores: Small batch wines are always better than those produced by big corporations

It’s recently occurred to me that I choose wine the way I do coffee. I’d rather walk half a mile to find an independent coffee shop than frequent a chain. In my mind those beans were roasted with passion, someone delighted in the smell when they ground them and when the barista put that foam heart on my cappuccino, they put a bit of actual love in it. Chains on the other hand, seem faceless, nameless, tasteless.

I have always felt this approach translates quite seamlessly to wine. Surely small batch and independent winemakers are going to produce better quality bottles than corporations producing wine on a big scale? And I don’t think I’m the only one.

But is this all just my perception? And what exactly is it that gives small batch wines the edge? Or are there downsides to the smaller winemakers?

The wine newbie explores how and why small batch is better – if not bigger – and if the best things do come in small packages.

Artisan can equal variations in flavour profiles

The appeal of small batch or artisan makers in most industries is that care and thought has gone into each individual product and each batch. A bigger company can reproduce a similar wine (stylistically) from vintage to vintage with the use of vinification techniques. A small company does not have the means – or necessarily the need – for this level of consistency. This can lead to some variations in flavour profiles.

Wine each year will produce a different flavour due to varying factors like the weather, changes in soil, how the grapes have fared before being picked. Variation is ever present in the wine industry, no matter how large the company. However, smaller batch producers can have more fun experimenting with these variations.

As a consumer you’ll have to have an open mind with artisanal wine – don’t go expecting complete consistency, it’s not what they’re selling.

Big corporations can lack some soul

There has always been an argument that big business means a lack of soul. This translates into the wine industry in quite specific ways. The main issue is that wines by big companies will often lack the character of a small batch wine.

Mass production will often cater to obvious tastes, allowing for very little in the way of experimentation which often is what gives smaller winemakers their character. Big corporations producing lots of wine often can’t afford to get too playful as if it goes wrong there will be a lot more being wasted than with a small batch.

Small batches are at the forefront of flavour

A small batch wine producer is more likely to experiment than the larger companies. They can follow interesting wine trends and stay on the forefront of the newest ideas. Big businesses will want to cover the basics and offer wines that are commercially viable – a solid French Merlot, Spanish Rioja, Argentinean Malbec and such.

With small batch wine you can look at the quirkier side of wine. You can try lesser known grapes grown away from their homeland. There is a diversity to small batch wines that is very difficult to come by with bigger businesses.

If you’re new to wine and you want to explore world wines, I’ve found it’s way more fun trying small producers than working your way through the back catalogue of a huge conglomerate or sifting through the offers on the supermarket shelves.

Getting what you pay for

Small batch makers may not be able to compete with huge companies making wine for low retail price but you know that the price will reflect the quality of the product. An £11 bottle from an independant maker will most probably be more interesting than something for the same price in your local supermarket.

When embarking on a journey through wines as a newbie like me it’s nice to know that what you’re trying is quality. The thought and effort that goes into each bottle from a small batch ensures that.

It might not be to your taste but it will be an adventure – and isn’t that one of the reasons we get into wine anyway?

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