On Wine Day, Consider Wineries and Vineyards a Fertile Field

By | May 18, 2016

If you’re one of those people who think there are enough holidays already, then you may not be happy to hear that National Wine Day is coming up – unless you really like wine, then perhaps an exception is in order.

The unofficial holiday is May 25, so you’ve got a week to prepare.

While it’s not to be confused with National Drink Wine Day on Feb. 18, the only festivities that seem to be called for during next week’s celebration are tilting back a glass.

Here’s some good news for insurance professionals interested in wine: there’s a year-round cause to celebrate.

Numerous opportunities and counting are out there for insurance agents to tap wineries and vineyards as clients, according to William Cushing, chief underwriting officer for Travelers agribusiness.

“What’s really neat about wineries is that they’re growing,” Cushing said. “They are still growing in the United States. People are surprised to find out that the wine business and wineries are growing an average of 5 percent a year, so there’s more to be had. As an agent looking to get into the wine business to write on wineries, it’s always good to find a business that’s growing, where there’s new opportunities.”

Flirting business peopleInsurance pros who really like wine should also read: Report Says Climate Change Could Make Some Wines Less Tasty

Industry statistics from the National Association of American Wineries show that at nearly $5 billion grapes are the highest value fruit crop in the U.S., and that more than 350 million gallons of wine was produced from January 2014 to July 2014, the latest data available.

There were nearly 30 million winery visits annually, providing employment to over 50,000 people, according to the group.

Since 2000 the number of bonded wineries has grown from 2,904 to 10,417 in 2014, nearly half of which (4,285) are in California, according to the Wine Institute.

Washington, Oregon, New York, Virginia and Texas are other states that lead the nation in numbers of wineries, Wine Institute statistics show.

Aside from budding opportunities, Cushing can point out many other reasons agents may be interested in selling insurance to wineries and vineyards.

WINE HOLIDAYS

      If you like wine and holidays, we’ve got a list for you.
      VinePair.com lists every official wine drinking day of the year. Here’s a sampling:
      Feb. 18: Drink Wine Day
      April: Michigan Wine Month
      April 17: World Malbec Day.
      April 24: International Sauvignon Blanc Day
      May: Oregon Wine Month
      May 9: World Moscato Day
      May 21: National Chardonnay Day
      June: Ohio Wine Month, and Idaho Wine Month
      August: Washington Wine Month
      August 18: National Pinot Noir Day
      September: Wine months for California, Missouri, North Carolina and Illinois
      September 3: Cabernet Day
      October: Wine months for Texas, Virginia and Pennsylvania
      Nov. 12: Wine Tourism Day
      Nov. 18: National Zinfandel Day
      Dec. 4: Cabernet Franc Day
    Dec. 31: National Champagne Day

“It’s a good business to be in because it’s so unique,” he said. “I don’t know of any other industry where you physically grow the crop, the product. Then you take it, you harvest it, you manufacture it. You create from the grape juice. Then you ferment it. You store it. You make a new product. Over time if you bottle it, then you sell it directly to a consumer, all on the same premises. I don’t know anywhere where that happens.”

When Cushing drives into a winery he takes note of the vines, any buildings nearby where barrels of wine are stored, buildings that house cases of wine already bottled.

“If you walk into that winery, you could go to a tasting room,” he said. “You can buy a bottle of wine. You can possibly tour the facility. Again, I don’t think of any other industry that provides all of that in a single location.”

All these facets of operation create plenty of exposures an agent could point out to a potential customer, Cushing said.

Among the first exposures that come to mind are the grapes, the trellises, the signs and the buildings, Cushing said, adding, “All of those need to be insured at some level or another.”

Numerous pitfalls lie in wait for winemakers, who must first ensure the vines are successful, and that the grapes grow and are properly harvested at the right time, then they must be stored in the proper facilities, and crushed quickly after harvest.

“Then they have the juice, which needs to be stored,” Cushing said. “It needs to be processed. It needs to be fermented. It eventually needs to be bottled. There’s equipment that goes into every piece of that, all of it which has to be covered.”

One unique, and portentous, exposure that winemakers must consider when storing wines is leakage from barrels.

“Because they’re being stored for a long period of time, they may not realize it in time to save the stock, and they lose the juice,” Cushing said. “They could lose an entire vintage.”

Another potential oversight can occur if winemakers cleaning their equipment leave behind residue.

“They may think that they have a wonderful wine that’s being stored and fermenting in their barrels, but because there may have been residues from a cleaning solvent in the containers, and they wouldn’t know about it, they actually have nothing short of vinegar,” he said.

Overly-enthusiastic wine enthusiasts are another concern.

“Sometimes people will overindulge,” Cushing said. “They don’t mean to, but they can. They’re backing out of a winery and there’s this beautiful sign that describes the winery and the history, and the individual backs into that sign. You need to think about covering that.”

That same enthusiast also has the potential to veer off the road and wipe out a row or two of vines.

“That stock is the livelihood of that winery, and you can’t just replace a vine overnight,” he said. “It has to be planted. It has to be grown over time before it can produce a grape that will provide the juice that will one day be a top vintage wine.”

For agents interested in procuring wineries and vineyards as clientele, Cushing advised an old-fashioned approach.

“If you’re looking to get into the wine business as an agent, my first idea would be, get in the car, drive around and find some vineyards,” he said. “Walk up, knock on the door, introduce yourself, and talk about the ways you can add value to the business.”

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