GWH Blog

What is Custom Crush Winemaking?

T here are several ways that one can approach winemaking. And for those that are newer to the wine industry, custom crush might be an unfamiliar term you’ve come across during your research. Here we address the major question of “What is Custom Crush?” in addition to outlining the major benefits of using a custom crush facility, and why custom crush might be a good fit for you and your production.

Custom Crush is the idea of making wine in a facility with equipment and resources provided by the facility management team. Depending on your winemaking operation, it can be a great way to make wine without the overhead and capital investment of a dedicated winery.

Winemaking Goals

Your first step is to identify your winemaking goals. When your goals are clear, it is easier to make the right decisions for your wine brand. Do you want to make wine or manage a facility? Setting up a dedicated winery is a bit like the responsibilities of owning a house (but usually much larger): You are going to have a lot of equipment and infrastructure to install, repair, upgrade, as well as permitting and personnel to employ in operating that facility. Many people prefer to place their focus on the craft of winemaking rather than the burden of a facility. If you’d rather not manage a facility, then custom crush might be the way to go.

Additionally, you will need to identify your unique needs, values, and objectives. Do you make small or large lots of wine? Do you start with grapes or bulk wine? What is your target price point? Do you have any specific tasting room or hospitality needs? Are you starting with a wine label or do you also own a vineyard? These are important questions to ask yourself before you embark on this endeavor.

Custom Crush wineries can adapt to varying methods of making wine. One winemaking technique is sorting all the grapes that are received into the winery by hand.

What Benefits Does a Custom Crush Facility Offer?

A custom crush facility offers a variety of benefits. First you might want to consider the financial and accounting advantages that they present. Custom crush is usually priced at a fixed cost per ton or case that allows for more accurate financial forecasting and budgeting. Since the custom crush company owns or operates the facility, they alleviate the capital-intensive costs of setting up a winery.

Custom crush offers a variety of labor benefits. The staff is both trained and skilled in best practices, which is directly related to the quality of their winemaking. You, as a winemaker or winery owner, can direct your winemaking goals and know that a skilled team is carrying out the work. Custom crush absorbs labor-related liability and any additional payroll expenses (insurance, workman’s comp, etc.)

Perhaps the equipment and the facility itself offer the widest range of advantages. When you use custom crush, you have access to high-end equipment with limited or no maintenance or upkeep costs. The custom crush staff also understands the permitting process and handles the permit process from end-to-end. The list of permits required to make wine is extensive. A partial list is as follows:

  1. Form 5120.25: Application to Establish & Operate Wine Premises
  2. Form 5100.24: Application for Basic Permit under FAA Act
  3. Form 5000.29 Environmental Information
  4. Form 5120.36 Wine Bond
  5. ABC Form 257: Licensed Premise Program
  6. Hazardous Chemical Storage Permits
  7. Building Lease Agreement
  8. ABC Form: Zoning Affidavit
  9. Fire Safety Permits
  10. Water Waste Permits
  11. Storm Water and Run-Off Protection Permits
  12. Building Code Permits

Operating a wine production facility involves regulation from many agencies, and each requires its own permitting and documentation. A Custom Crush facility can reduce the administrative load by carrying out much of this paperwork.

How to Choose the Right Custom Crush Facility: The Top Four Considerations

The Facility

When considering a facility, you need to establish goals that are specific to your business and then determine whether the facility meets your goals for quality and quantity. Since you will be in a business relationship with the facility, there are facility characteristics and attributes that are best to consider up front. What are the facility’s goals and focus? Do these goals align with yours? Does the facility offer benefits to the industry and local community? What do you think about the way that they take care of the facility? Is it clean and organized? These are all important considerations to take into account as you explore your options.

Various tank sizes in winemaking

When choosing a facility, an important consideration is tank and lot sizes. You want to ensure that the winery has appropriately sized vessels for the typical size of harvest, fermentation or storage for you.

Subject Matter Expertise

Facilities offer a wide range of subject matter expertise (SME). When choosing between facilities, does the custom crush facility offer access to the right amount of expertise for you through knowledgeable and experienced wine production teams? Does it offer the appropriate SME for your specific needs? At the same time, a custom crush facility offers the vast access to the resources of shared knowledge, learning opportunities, and best practices. If this is what you need, it’s a good idea to choose a facility that has the right amount of resources available to you.

Lab work and technical skills in winemaking

An important benefit to a custom crush winery is that they typically have an experienced winemaking team. You will certainly want to meet the team to verify this before you trust a facility with your production—and as a winemaker, you will enjoy surrounding yourself with additional wine-knowledgeable people.

Customer Service

Each client of a custom crush organization has its own reasons for using the service and its own communication needs. If you have unique requests or more difficult requests, is the facility willing to assist you? It is important to understand what level of services you will get for what you pay. Are the workers friendly and approachable? Each facility offers a different level of service and a different style of communication. How does the facility exchange communication for requested activities, records maintenance and protocols? It’s important to know both their level of customer service and best practices for data management and compliance.

Representation

The custom crush facility that you choose is an extension of your brand. How do you feel about the look and feel of the facility? It’s a good idea to choose a facility that represents you well and that you would be proud to bring a client to. That being said, does the facility allow on-site visits? If they allow on-site visits, when do they allow them and how accessible is it? Do their Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) availability and adaptability align with your standards? As you can imagine, it is important to understand how they represent you up front so that you aren’t surprised later on.

Conclusion

Making wine in a custom crush facility is a great way to start your wine brand. After you consider the financial, labor, equipment, and facilities benefits that they offer, you may decide that custom crush is the way to go for you. There is much to offer and you can start with much less capital investment, overhead and permitting. What is more, the SME, caring customer service, and representation may be just what you need for your brand.

Do your research before choosing a custom crush facility and be sure to choose one that is the best fit for your needs. Make a long list of your questions and specific requirements, so that during your visit you can easily remember what is important to you. And further, take your time in making your final decision. Where you make your wine is very important–it’s like moving into a new home. Be sure that it is the right fit and the facility cares as much about your wine as you do. If you have questions about winemaking, give us a call. Even if you do not make your wine at Gravity Wine House, we are always happy to talk to others about winemaking or the wine industry.

Winemaking Equipment

A common sight at wineries is the fitting board, where the cellar team stores and obtains fittings used in almost every wine operation. Often times it feels like the proverbial water cooler.