Small Business Brief

Food Business

How to Start a Winery in 10 Straightforward Steps

Winemaking is one of the oldest professions in the world. Generations later, the human desire to create is as prevalent as ever. There’s simply something captivating about distilling years of labor into a single tinted bottle.

Have you caught the urge to create a vintage of your own? Starting a winery is not an easy task, but it offers its own unique rewards you won’t find anyplace else. That’s why you need some guidance to help you on your way.

People figured out the wine business 10,000 years ago. You can too. Learn how to start a winery with these 10 straightforward steps.

1. Decide on a Business Plan

When people think of wineries, they imagine acres and acres of grape trellises. The thing is, there is more than one way to run a successful wine business.

You could run a winery without producing grapes at all, or by buying grapes from other cultivators and producing the wine on-site. Don’t forget about revenue from entertainment as well, such as hosting wine tastings or other events.

Focus on one of these options or attempt all three. Whichever you choose will set the foundation of your winery’s business plan.

2. Acquire Funding

Starting a vineyard isn’t cheap. In addition to land costs and workers, you will need to consider equipment, grapes, storage, and more. When all’s said and done, a traditional vineyard will cost over $1 million just to get started.

Odds are you don’t have that kind of liquid capital sitting around. Thankfully, there are plenty of options to find funding for your business. Your first stop should be personal business loans, but you can get financial help from other collaborators or financers.

3. Locate the Right Plot

Want to know how to start a vineyard? It’s all about the plot. But before we talk about that, make sure you do some market research to find an area with low competition that also supports a healthy climate for growing grapes.

Of course, you could consider distributing your wines rather than focusing on the local market. The choice is up to you.

Prime vineyard real estate will have a climate with plenty of sunshine and moderate temperatures. Grapes tend to prefer soil with high acid content and rough soil. Still, you should prioritize the preferred environment of your grape of choice.

4. Understand Regulations

Any winery must obtain a permit to operate legally. Unfortunately, that is only one small component in a sea of federal and state regulations. Once you get your hands on a permit, you’ll want to sign up with the FDA.

The regulations don’t stop here. You can’t sell your wine until the Alcohol Trade Bureau approves it for sale. On top of that, you will be beholden to state laws and more complicated legislation regarding interstate shipments.

In short, understanding winery laws is as complicated as starting one in the first place. It’s in your best interest to consult with a legal professional to ensure your winery is up to code.

5. Establish the Infrastructure

You’ve got the land, the permits, and the plan. Now it’s time to get started. If you’ll be planting your own grapes, you’ll have the option of buying pre-grown vines to get a head start.

These can save you over a year of growing time. But remember: The plants are a small portion of a vineyard’s total infrastructure.

You’ll have to figure out the storage situation for bottling the wine as well as keeping it in the right conditions. Plus, don’t forget distribution infrastructure or a point-of-sale store for guests and tourists. These costs can sneak up on you.

6. Create a Winery Marketing Plan

It could take several years before your first batch of wine is ready for sale. Even though your product is not yet ready, you can begin the marketing process now.

Since the first few years are crucial to a successful winery, your marketing approach is everything. For the best results, contact a professional to sculpt the perfect winery marketing plan.

7. Start Networking

If this is your first agricultural venture, you might be surprised to find even your competitors are willing to give you a helping hand. At a vineyard, a wide web of contacts is just as crucial as those found in an office space.

Your contacts can help you with local cultivation tips since they have been working the land for years. They also have invaluable insider knowledge about the local market. Talk to your neighbors and join a local wine business network to stay connected.

8. Think About Distribution

We’ve touched on the importance of winery distribution already. But it deserves a section of its own. Your distribution network is a pivotal cog in the winery machine.

Let’s say your marketing approach targets the local market and positions your wine as an affordable luxury. You will probably distribute your wine at a farmer’s market and local events.

But that is not your only option. You might find more success by selling your wine across the state lines. That means you’ll have to consider transportation costs, regulatory fees, and a larger workforce.

9. Keep It Slow

Don’t be tempted to do too much in your early years. Yes, your wine business will have plenty of downtime while you wait for the vintage to mature. But spending more money and expanding your business before you’ve had a sale is often a dangerous proposition.

If you wanted to sell one or two varieties of wine, then stick to it. Planting new grapes comes with greater expenses and risks. Plus, it makes running your business more complicated when you are still trying to find your footing.

10. Stay Calm

Starting a winery is different than throwing together a typical business. It is simply impossible to find a massive profit and expand in your early years. The reality is your wine business will be in the red for several years.

Remember to stay calm and take your time. Impatience will only lead to bad decision-making, such as expanding too quickly. But once you get a taste of the first batch — and make your first sale — you can enjoy the literal fruit of your labor.

You Know How to Start a Winery – Now What?

Well, now it’s time to get started! If you’re still worried about diving in, then just get your feet wet. Keep your wine business small and laser-focused, or spend time homebrewing to improve your winery skills.

There’s no rush — you know how to start a winery. The wine business will still be there for you when you’re ready.

Are you looking for your next business venture? Search our small business articles and find the next million-dollar idea.