Custom Crush: How To Make Wine Without Owning A Winery


2 minute Read

Custom Crush

Most people who become obsessed with wine eventually end up at least dreaming about making it. Much like home brewing beer, learning how to make wine helps you better appreciate what went into the product inside the bottle. Better yet, maybe you’re that one guy or gal that has a crazy idea for a super geeky new wine that you’re gonna make using an obscure grape, or you just have the idea for a really cool new red blend brand because you want to compete with The Prisoner and you think this brand has the ability to make tons of money. There’s just one small problem, you’ve never worked at a hedge fund where you made millions, only to retire early and you weren’t born into wealth, so you don’t exactly have the capital needed to buy that existing winery and the vineyard it sits on. So what do you do?

You head to a custom crush facility.

Custom crush facilities have taken off in recent years because they allow anyone with passion and an idea to make wine at scale. So what exactly is a custom crush facility? A custom crush is a bonded winery that allows other wine brands to make wine at their facility, often times even making the wine for you. You’ll still have to get your own winery license in order to market and sell your wine, but you can completely avoid the cost of maintaining your own facility, allowing you to instead concentrate on actually selling your wine.

The Prisoner is a very successful wine that started in Custom Crush facilities.

The Prisoner is a very successful wine that started in custom crush facilities.

Starting a winery from scratch is incredibly tough, if you aren’t buying an existing winery, which is very expensive, you’re going to not only need to lay down a ton of capital for your actual wine making facility, but also a ton of capital to identify suitable land and plant vines. Then on top of it all, you’re going to have to wait – three years at least – before you can even begin to harvest your fruit and convert it into vino. For many, that’s both too capital intensive and way too long to wait. For these entrepreneurs, custom crush is the perfect answer.

Custom crush facilities can either be wineries that also make their own wine – basically operating as a custom crush facility on the side to earn some additional income – or operating as a custom crush can be their entire business model.

At a custom crush you can either work with grapes you’ve bought from an independent grower, or you could buy already pressed juice and simply use the facility to ferment and age it. You could even buy already finished wine from a winery that has made too much – often referred to as bulk wine – and simply have the custom crush facility bottle and label it for you. This last option is way more common than you might realize (think 90+). At all of these facilities, you usually need to supply all the materials – not just the grapes or juice, but also the bottles, labels and corks as well.

After that, the sky’s the limit in terms of what you do with your hot new wine brand. Just be aware that most custom crush facilities have a set minimum on the amount of wine you have to make in order to do business with them. The lowest we’ve ever heard is 1,000 cases, which is 12,000 bottles of wine, though we’re sure that’s negotiable at some places.

So while using a custom crush is a cheaper option than starting from scratch, you’ll still have to lay out capital to get all the materials you need in order to make your game-changing wine and then, of course, you’ll need to move those bottles. And above all, the wine is going to have to taste good. But who knows–after all your hard work, maybe you’ll eventually wind up selling your wine brand for millions, just like The Prisoner!

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