What is Craft Wine: A Guide for Wine Lovers

April 06, 2023

Posted by Cassandra Martin

As a wine lover, you may have heard of craft wine, but you might not know what it means exactly.

Simply put, craft wine is a small-batch, artisanal wine made by independent producers who care deeply about the quality and uniqueness of their products. 

Craft wine is about exploring flavors, experimenting with new techniques, and pushing the boundaries of what wine can be.

craft wine

Who Can Use The Term Craft Wine? 

Craft wine is all about the process. While commercial wine is often made in large quantities using a standardized approach, craft wine is made in smaller batches, allowing the winemaker to pay closer attention to every detail.

According to the Craft Wine Association, "Certified Craft Wine is a commercially available, limited-production wine most commonly in production runs of 5,000 cases or fewer."

From the choice of grapes to the fermentation process, every step is carefully considered to create a wine that is unique and expressive. 

Snow Farm Vineyard in South Hero, Vermont makes craft wines from the heart of the Champlain Islands. The islands are a remote treasure in the state, where sandy beaches and farm fields are more common than stoplights. Approximately 40 tons of grapes are harvested every year by hand to make 3,000 cases of craft wine at Snow Farm.

The descriptions of many of the Snow Farm wines are updated every time a new batch is made because the taste profile can be very different from the prior batch. 

"After we harvest the grapes, we'll evaluate them to decide what blends would go best together. We often experiment with flavor combinations," head winemaker Patrick Barellet said. "One year, our Vidal Blanc grapes might create a Chardonnay-style wine with floral notes, and another year the wine might be more oak-forward."

Because Vidal Blanc is so versatile, Snow Farm offers it as a white table wine. It's one of the 18 varieties of wine Snow Farm produces. 

Another popular craft wine variety made from Vidal Blanc grapes at Snow Farm is ice wine. Ice wine is only made in a few places in the world because the grapes must be plucked from the vines frozen. Winemakers aren't guaranteed a crop every year because the grapes are often victim to animals eating them instead. When they are harvested, the sugars are concentrated, and it creates a sweet dessert wine that sells out every year it's made. 

craft wine

Craft Wine Creativity

Craft wine producers are always experimenting. At Snow Farm, it's been with natural wines like Pet-nat. Pet-nat is bottled after only a few weeks during its first natural fermentation, giving it bubbles. What makes it truly special is that, unlike champagne, there is no sugar or yeast added to it. What you taste in pet-nat is the most natural, untouched form of winemaking there is, without any interruption to the process. Barrelet says it’s been popular for that reason. 

"It’s refreshing and a little tart – people like it because it’s natural," Patrick said. "It’s very pure because we use straight juice to make it with no aging, no flavoring from barrels, and no added ingredients. It’s just the grape talking when you taste it.”

Barrelet says one of the great things about craft wine is the range of flavors and styles available. Craft winemakers are not bound by tradition or rules, which allows them to experiment with different grape varieties, blends, and aging techniques. This means that you're more likely to find a wine that suits your taste preferences, whether you prefer a bold, tannic red or a crisp, acidic white. And because craft winemakers are always trying new things, there's always something new to discover.


Wine Cocktails

Is Craft Wine Better for the Planet? 

Craft wine is also more sustainable and ethically produced than commercial wine. Craft winemakers often prioritize sustainable farming practices, which are better for the environment and produce healthier grapes.

They also tend to be made by smaller, family-owned vineyards, supporting local communities and keeping the wine industry diverse and vibrant. When you choose craft wine, you're not just getting a better quality product – you're also supporting a more sustainable and ethical approach to winemaking.

So how can you find craft wine? The easiest way is to look for independent wine shops or restaurants that specialize in small-batch, artisanal wines. These establishments often have personal relationships with the winemakers they feature and can provide more information about the wine's origin and production. You can also look for wine clubs or subscription services that focus on craft wine, which will allow you to discover new wines and winemakers on a regular basis. Snow Farm Vineyard offers a wine club with two different options. And of course, you can always do your own research and seek out craft wine producers online or at wine festivals.

Craft wine is a celebration of creativity, quality, and sustainability in the wine industry. By choosing craft wine, you are not only getting a better-tasting wine, but you are also supporting small, independent winemakers who are dedicated to producing a unique and memorable product. Whether you're a seasoned wine connoisseur or just starting to explore the world of wine, there's an exciting and diverse world of craft wine out there waiting to be discovered. Cheers to that!

craft wine

Topics: Vermont Wine

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