Wine is a numbers game |

Wine is a numbers game

What is the most important tool in wine? A pair of clippers? A wine opener? Try a calculator.

Wine is a business based on turning soil, sun and plants into profits. Don’t consider the numbers and your wine venture can add up to, well, zero.

There are winemakers who are artists and there are growers who are all about farming and the land. But the foundation for both is the ability to make a profit.


Let’s start with a bottle of wine and work backward. A full bottle contains 750 milliliters of wine. That works out to a fifth of a gallon, or just over 25 ounces. Who cares? Well, start with a restaurant or bar that is selling premium wines by the glass.

The average pour, or the amount of wine in a glass in a bar, is right around 5 ounces. If the bottle cost the bar, say, $20 wholesale, and they are charging you $10, a reasonable price for a premium pour (likely more at that bottle price), then they are grossing $50 on that bottle, or two and a half times more than they paid for it. The numbers start to add up.

You know there are a dozen bottles in a case, right? This is important because wine is sold by the case to retail establishments and usually when you purchase a case at your local wine shop you will get a 10 to 15 percent discount. If you don’t, look for a new shop.


In this country, the standard mode of measurement for a vineyard is the acre. In other parts of the world the measurement used is the hectare, which is equal to just under two and a half acres. We’ll use the acre because, well, we’re here.

An acre of land can host anywhere from 500 vines on the low end to as many as 1,300 vines. The total number depends on the spacing between the rows and the vines themselves. This can be where things get tricky, as the right brain (the creative side) may want to increase quality, while the left-brain (the analytical side) may want to increase yields.

Each vine has approximately 40 clusters of grapes and each cluster will have somewhere between 75 and 100 grapes. That means there are on average about 3,500 grapes per vine. The weight of those grapes is about 10 pounds. A high-end winery will usually shoot for somewhere between two and four tons of grapes yielded per acre. That means to yield four tons of grapes you need about 800 vines.

So how much wine does four tons of grapes produce? Well, again on average, a ton of grapes will crush down to 120 gallons of wine. Multiply that by four tons and you get 480 gallons of wine.

Still with me? Remember, a barrel can hold 60 gallons of wine. So 480 gallons would fill eight barrels. Again remember, a barrel produces 25 cases and there are 12 bottles in a case. So if you multiply 8 barrels times 25 cases times 12 bottles, you get 2,400 bottles of wine on your planted acre.

That’s a lot of digits to be sure, but you can bet that any successful grape grower has done that math many times for every acre they’ve planted.

Kelly J. Hayes lives in the soon-to-be-designated appellation of Old Snowmass. He can be reached at

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