And also: the case for small wineries (Get it? Case... wine...)
(Also we really like using parentheses, apparently. See below for further evidence of this trend.)
The fact that you’re reading this blog post means that you found your way to THE OFFICIALLY LAUCHED Sip Wines, and hopefully read our first blog post about who we are and why we exist. Welcome! We’re so glad you came to visit. And unless you took a serious wrong turn, we assume that also means you’re a fan of wine. Great! We don’t have to convince you that wine is awesome. Yay wine!
But we don’t want to make any more assumptions about you, because you know what they say about assumptions… (if you actually don’t, click here to learn about Jerry Belson's catchphrase). That means we won’t assume that just because you’re on our site, you care about buying wine on the basis of values, supporting small businesses, or even buying good wine (although we hope at least you care about how your wine tastes, otherwise why not just grab a bottle when you stop for gas?).
For that reason, we’d like to take this opportunity to tell you exactly why buying wine from small wineries is important, and why you should try it out for yourself. For funsies, let’s keep going with our Marvel movie analogies just a little bit more. (I promise to stop for a while after this.)
Everyone loves a hero
Ultimately, this is the basis for the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and all the other successful movies in the genre. Humans are drawn to superheroes--it’s actually science! But why? A few reasons. One, it turns out that most of us are born with an innate sense of justice and doing good, which of course is perfectly embodied by superheroes. We feel good when we witness it, and we feel good when we can contribute to it. Two, most of us can relate to the standard superhero character arc, which represents struggle, sacrifice, and the promise of a happy ending. Relatability represents connection.
But what does this have to do with supporting small wineries? Don’t worry, we’re getting there…
Small businesses represent who we are
Most people place a high value on identity, both our personal identities as well as those of other aspects of our lives. Arguably, we care almost as much about the identity of a place as we do ourselves--otherwise why would we agonize so much about choosing a country/city/ neighborhood to make our homes? At some level, we probably care so much about a place’s identity precisely because we recognize how interconnected it is, or will be, with our own. Whether you live in a big city, a suburb, a small town, or a remote outpost, where does its character and personality come from?
If we had to guess, the answer probably isn’t big box stores and global chains. This is not at all to disparage those retailers--one of this author’s happy places is a store whose name we shall not reveal (but rhymes with “Shmarget”)--but one of those stores is much like another. And they’re designed to be that way, on the principle of uniformity of brand. There is a lot of benefit to having established brands that are consistent across the board, so you always know what you’re getting. That serves a vital role in our economy. But we shouldn’t conflate consistency and convenience with character. This author might love Shmarget, but that’s very different from feeling a kinship of identity.
No, a place’s identity comes from the things that make it unique--and those are the people and their creations, in the form of their business endeavors. Local businesses embody the people who create them, whether in the form of a coffee shop, a restaurant, a bodega, or even a gas station. These people pour themselves into their businesses, giving their time, energy, passion, and hard work, and persisting through struggle and sacrifice. It’s kind of like having a child in that respect. Just like children, those businesses in turn evolve and become something more than their creator. And each one is unique.
Personality is what led us to each of the wineries that we partner with at Sip Wines. These are small operations, many owned by families who have been in the wine business for generations, and it is PERSONAL for them. It’s seriously cool to contact a winery and speak to the owner, or the head winemaker, rather than some marketing employee who may have visited the winery a handful of times. These people have stories to tell, that they’ve actually lived. Even more amazing is how each of these wineries has a distinct identity that reflects not only its owners, but also its winemakers, employees, and local communities--and yet is more than the sum of its parts.
We think you’ll relate to these wineries in a way that might surprise you.
Small businesses are doing a disproportionate amount of good for their size
Did you know that ants are capable of carrying as much as 50 times their body weight? Cool, huh? Other than a not-so-subtle allusion to Ant-man, we bring that up because small businesses can do an awful lot of good relative to their size. Here are just a few examples:
- They represent a lot of jobs. Around 60 million of them, actually--almost half of the US workforce, employed through the collective power of the small.
- They pay it forward in their communities, in more ways than one. By employing mainly local workers, they keep the money in their local economies, both in terms of spending dollars and tax dollars. And, small business owners tend to support each other, through the purchase of supplies as well as stepping in during times of financial hardship. That’s a lot of good feelz right there.
- Big companies often depend on them. It's very common for small businesses to provide supplies for big companies (car components, for example) or outsourced services, such as IT, collections, or payroll. Talk about lifting above your weight class.
- They represent entrepreneurship… and we can tell you firsthand that taking on a new business venture and pitting yourself against the established market definitely represents a heroic feat.
- Women and people who identify as members of underrepresented groups may find that small business represents access to a business world that historically was closed to them. This is not to say that big companies have not made progress in terms of diversity, but many systemic barriers to entry still exist.
- They can carry the weight of the world… or at least some of it. By that, we mean environmental impact: small businesses often have smaller carbon footprints, often readily embrace sustainable practices and promote sustainability in other ways (think small businesses in a walkable downtown area), take advantage of renewable energy sources, and more.
All of these areas are worthy of deeper dives (which is why we’ll be devoting future posts to many of them). Today, we simply want to make the point that small businesses collectively do a LOT of good. Much of that is probably because they’re run by individuals, rather than large, disconnected groups of shareholders. This makes it easier for them to avoid red tape, prioritize social values over pure profit, and act swiftly to implement change.
Sip Wines actively seeks winery partners who are committed to some type of social impact, big or small. You’ll notice that many wineries on our site have labels representing their initiatives, along with explanations on the site for each type of initiative. We think the wineries deserve credit for going above and beyond, and you deserve to feel good about supporting them.
They’re also MAKING good--products, that is
Identity and social impact are all fine and dandy, but at the end of the day, consumers also want good products. Fortunately, this is where many small businesses really shine. After all, when it comes to production of goods, many people start small businesses because they love what they do and they can do it with a level of care and precision that might be lacking in mass production. “Artisanal” has become something of a buzzword in consumerism, as a synonym for “small and good,” and most consumers probably don’t know what it actually means because it’s used so ubiquitously. Artisanal simply means that something was produced in a traditional way, and many small producers actually do use traditional techniques. It shows.
It’s funny that “artisanal” isn’t used more often in connection with winemaking, because wine has some serious traditions—which makes sense, given that evidence of the first winery dates back to 4100 BC. Of course, wineries have innovated extensively since the BC days, but the spirit of the tradition is still there. In truth, much of the benefit of “artisanal” production is not necessarily about the exact processes used to produce wines, but rather the care and attention that an artisan takes in production. Small wineries are able to devote individual attention to their grapes and production with a precision lacking in larger operations.
Of course, not ALL small wineries make good wine. Fortunately, our Sip Wines team members have exquisitely high standards, and also we’re very good at research. Our top priority is to bring you wines that align with your identity and values, AND also taste good. Best of all worlds.
We’ll just say it: we think our small winery partners are the real superheroes, and we love them for it. But you don’t have to take our word for it. Why not order some wine while you’re here and find out for yourself?