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marino

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Hello all,


Several friends want to join me this year to make wine. They've suggested helping to buy the grapes in exchange for some bottles in the future.

How do people handle this? Do you just split the costs evenly and then split the bottles evenly as well?

Ive only been making wine from fresh grapes for three years with good results but have lots to learn and feel lots of pressure to not let the wine disappoint. I'm not sure I can make wine that will be as good as people have tasted before.

I consider this a fun (and expensive) learning experience, but am not sure that people who just like to drink wine will understand how these things go.

This year I'm focusing on Tempranillo for the second year and last year's wine still needs a few more months in the barrel before I blend and bottle.

Does anyone have good tips on how to handle situations like this?

Thanks!
 

Boatboy24

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Sounds like your friends want to simply 'buy in' on your wine. Are they planning to help in the process? Do they understand there are risks involved and that there's a chance it could all be lost? Do they know it will be 1-3 years before they can drink this wine?

I'd make sure your expectations are very clear. In my opinion, it isn't worth doing unless they plan to help during crush, press and bottling - that way they are invested in something more than just writing a check. Understand there's much to be done in between those steps, but start there and let them know you'd need help during racking, etc. You need to get a rough idea of your total cost will be up front, and plan to 'charge' based on that. As you know, there's much more involved than just the cost of grapes. Do you plan to have them clean and return bottles? That's a big consideration. Do you have room enough for the increased capacity? Will you require extra equipment? Lots to consider, but I'd recommend starting small - with one or two 'partners' at first.
 

sour_grapes

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I like Jim (Boatboy's) ideas. Also, his plan has the advantage that it makes it very clear that you are NOT selling wine, which would be a big no-no in the US.
 

marino

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Thanks guys. Im definitely not selling wine. We're very clear on that. I've explained how long it takes and how much work it takes. As you know, people aren't really up for doing any of the work, which is why they've offered to pay for the grapes and all associated costs. But then there are also costs connected to barrels and wine volume that disappears as part of the process.

I've got one partner now with two more wanting to join, but even the one is unreliable when it's really time to work. I've decided they'd all buy new bottles if they want in on this, and am thankful for the AIO pump that makes racking and bottling much easier.

Essentially, I'm trying to learn as much as I can and not be limited to 3 gallons a year, so this idea seemed like a good way to make as many gallons as I have carboys for, but indoor think I have the right model for it yet.

Since they'll do no work, should I keep back more wine than they get, if it all turns out?
 

jburtner

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Yes you should keep wine as payment for the work or you simply pay less cash up front and put in the work... Figure out an estimate on time, energy, facilities, and other unanticipated or untracked expenses.

You then have a better idea of the real cost - ie; if you had to hire someone to "rack and track"...

You could also tabulate expected and actual costs every three months and for the duration of the project including tabulating time and energy / etc... Then send out project invoices and updates on what may be expected in the coming periods regarding time and energy needs as well as financial needs.. Make it an 18 or 24 month project from start to finished bottles with labels / etc...

Cheers and good luck!
-johann
 

Boatboy24

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Since they'll do no work, should I keep back more wine than they get, if it all turns out?
I would keep it all. ;)

Even though you're not selling wine, your friends may feel as though they're buying. And as such, may feel they are entitled to certain things - like minimum quality guarantees, delivery timelines, etc. I think I'd simply offer to help them make their own.

Them not doing any work and simply writing a check puts you in a sticky situation. If you are getting more wine than they are, then there is an implied 'price' and therefore implied sale.
 
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JohnT

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You need to think of this in terms of US making wine TOGETHER.

make a serious effort to not make any kind of profit and do insist that do their own work. Do not bottle for them, do not crush for them, and do not rack for them. All of this they need to do for themselves.
 

JohnT

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One more thing... Be VERY careful of who you bring into this. You may be friends now, but who is to say what they will be like in 2 years.

It is because of this that I recommend that you do not share ownership of any vital equipment. It will make kicking someone out much easier when all they own is wine.
 

Kraffty

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I have a very good friend who joined up with me last year and is in again this year. He came from years with a group that had grown to over 20 people. He's made it very clear that what was once a fun and fairly costed venture became less and less enjoyable as it grew. A few in the group thought crush and pressing parties were more about the drinking than the working especially since they had "paid" to be there and for their final share. I think John is correct. I'd only involve people who will commit to all the processes, share the costs and share the work load.

No matter what, if it stops being fun it's not really worth the time and effort. I don't think in my case that anymore than a good friend, our wives and a few other people that just join in for the BBQ and drinks afterwards would make it any more enjoyable than it is now.
Best of luck, and like others have said, make sure everyone is very clear on the risks involved.
Mike
 

jgmann67

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After sampling a few bottles of my wine, my brother really wanted "in." But, since the work all gets done at my house and we live about 150 miles apart, we devised a "you buy, I'll fly" deal in which he purchases the kits, I get the wine into the bottle and we split the proceeds evenly. We've done 3 kits that way so far.

This year, I explained what I was doing with my fresh grapes and he wanted in on that too. But, it's substantially more expensive to make wine in a greater amount from fresh grapes. Instead of 6 gallons of finished product, we're likely looking at 24 gallons. So, the deal is 1/3 (me) and 2/3 (him) on cost, and splitting proceed 50-50.

What matters, I think, is whether it's fair in the minds of those involved and that there are reasonable expectations going into the endeavor.
 

marino

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Thanks everyone. Looks like the smart thing to do is to go it alone. Id like to make it as fun as possible so I'll stick to my goal of learning as much as possible and seeing how that learning pays off every three years.
 

bkisel

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A friend asked for me to make a batch of wine for him which he'd pay for. Told him no but I'd be willing to help him make a batch using my equipment - he'd provide kit, bottles and corks. Gave him links to several mail order sites plus found a LHBS about 20 minutes from his house and emailed him the stores URL. That was about 6-7 months ago and he is yet to put any skin in the game.

This is a hobby for me and I won't allow it to be turned into a job. Learned that lesson over 40 years ago when I made some custom picture frames for myself and then a few for family and friends. Word spread and it was come home from my 9 to 5, relax a bit and then work the rest of the day on my picture frame (matting, etc.) "hobby".
 

marino

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Yeah-- I did this with a couple of other friends, and left the carboy at their house. Not even a airlock top up. The wine oxidized. Still there after 3 years!
 

JohnT

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I hope this does not sound like I am bragging or that this is too wordy...

I have been organizing and leading a winemaking group for 27 years. In the beginning, the group was composed of about 70%:30% friends/family. I have stopped bringing in new members because a whole generation of my family is now of drinking age. As old members retire or move away, a family member is waiting to take their place. Today the group is now 70%:30% family/friends. This could be why winemaking just seems to be getting more and more fun.

I have seen it all! I have seen how ugly it can get and I have also seen how fun it can be.

Now that I have some time, I would like to share some rules to live by..

1) I consider each person making wine as a MEMBER of the winery. As a member, you are expected to pitch in. If you cannot pitch in, then you are technically not making wine and are therefore out of the group. I remind people that they are making wine for themselves!

2) I NEVER accept a stranger as a member. I am very careful on exactly who I let in. For the most part, a person can come and help out during crush. After a number of years of helping, there may be a slim chance that I may choose to invite a person in. There have been many times where a member just sucked the fun out of it all, so one cannot be too careful.

3) The members purchase the grapes, not me. I am willing to pick the grapes up for the members and only ask for a reimbursement of exactly how much the grapes, etc. actually cost (I show them the receipt). I make no money on this. I am also a member of the group and pay my own fair share. I do not accept any form of compensation for my efforts. I receive no extra wine and no discounted prices.

4) I need to be reimbursed BEFORE the grapes get crushed. I do not exchange cash for wine! If I do not get reimbursed, then I keep the grapes. I remind everyone to bring a method of payment with them to crush.

5) Members must attend either crush or the pressing in order to make wine. I always say “You can’t make it? You’re are too busy? That is too bad, but there is always next year”.

4) I own all equipment. Do not even bother to offer some cash to help with equipment costs. You will get turned down. I learned first-hand just how ugly things can get when members turn nasty. Kicking these members out of the group would have been a lot easier if I had just refused to accept any "Help with the equipment costs.

6) Members that bring a food items to share with the group during crush, pressing, racking, or bottling will always be greeted with a smile.

7) For those that are not making wine, but think the process is cool and just want to help, I might gift a couple of bottles of wine. This is not a payment and there are no guarantees.

8) I will NEVER bottle your wine for you. Each member is expected to show up and bottle their own wine. Members must supply their own bottles. (Dealing with bottles is a GIGANTIC PITA!!!!). They must be washed and clean and ready to go. The bottles a member brings are the bottles that they will fill and take home, so cleaning the bottles is very important.

9) I am the boss. When it comes to wine, what I say goes. Do not, for example, debate me on the merits of racking during a full moon. If you don’t like how I do things, you can always go make wine at home.

10) There is more to winemaking than wine. My philosophy is that the winemaking process is a tradition of Fun. A good member will understand and respect this. Most stay after the work is done to eat, sip, and socialize.

They all seem to understand that a good time is my only paycheck.


 

pgentile

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For me, I like having this hobby all to myself, don't want to share the work or the wine. I know myself, if I was involved with a group I would start feeling resentment at the point when I'm doing more work or investment than others. Plus I am boarder line misanthropic and the wine is mine all mine.
 

semenn

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People came up with the money to evaluate the work. Why do you need to complicate your life so much? Are you doing so much wine that you do not have enough money and you need investors? Leave one investor - yourself. If you need money, you can help (take money - return money). If you need physical help, ask her, if this help is required, always hiring an assistant.
If there is even the slightest opportunity to remain a sole proprietor, its hers. Separate flies and cutlets, these ingredients should be separate, otherwise you will pay for everything! Good luck!
 
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