Here at Wine Spectrum we get to taste hundreds of wines every year. One of the most interesting questions we get asked by our clients is how many grapes does it take to make a bottle of wine? Why do some bottles cost a lot, while others cost a little? Well, it all depends on how many grapes a vineyard is able to produce per acre.
Before we get ahead of ourselves let’s answer the burning question…
“How many grapes go into a glass of wine?”
The short answer is… it depends.
Generally speaking, every single bottle of wine is made up of 600-800 individual grapes. That’s about 10 clusters. Think about this in relation to the conventional grapes you buy in the supermarket. Most of these bags have 3-4 clusters inside them, meaning you’d have to buy 3 bags of supermarket grapes to yield one bottle. That’s not just a lot of grapes, as you know from grocery shopping, depending on the quality, those grapes can get pricey.
Many high production houses in the industry are trying to get as much wine as they can from each acre planted. While the small artisan style winemakers that are cultivating their vines to the point where they may get as little as 1 bottle of wine from a whole vine. Who is to say what’s right? Some other variables you need to take into account are:
Varietal? – Some have small berries, some have large. Some are thick skinned (less juice), some have thin skins (more juice).
Weather? – Rain can plump up the grapes. Sun can dehydrate them.
Press process? – How were the grapes pressed? How much juice was squeezed from them. Was it free run? Bladder Press? Basket Press?
A Medium Yield Vineyard
75 grapes = 1 grape cluster = 1 glass = 5 ounces of wine
4 clusters = 1 bottle = 5 glasses of wine
40 clusters = 1 vine = 10 bottles
1,200 clusters = 30 vines = 1 barrel = 60 gallons
60 gallons = 25 cases
400 vines = 1 acre*
1 acre = 5 tons = 332 cases
What is a low yield?
Just like the previous question, it depends on who you ask. Many people that I talk to say that a vineyard producing 3 tons of fruit per acre or less would be considered a low yielding vineyard.
My perspective has completely changed since working here. During an earlier staff tasting, an Italian importer was showing off some wines that only got 2/3 of a bottle per vine. Edi Simcic’s and Podere Ciona’s vines only produce about a half ton of fruit per acre. THAT IS INSANE! Compare that to Barefoot (EJ Gallo Company) Muscato that reportedly can get up to 15 tons per acre. Now those are low yields.
We can also follow the grapes along their path from vines to bottles in the formulas below:
1 acre* = 5 tons of grapes = 400 vines = 16,000 clusters = 1,200,000 grapes
1 acre* = 5 tons of grapes = 13 barrels = 325 cases = 780 gallons = 3,900 bottles = 16,000 glasses
*An acre, as we know, is the amount of land tillable by one man and one ox in a day or the size of an American football field subtracting 10 yards and the end zones, i.e., a rectangle 90 yards long and 53 yards wide.