by G Gareth Hogan
Ended on June 30th 2018
And thanks for your interest! My name is Gareth, I am based in Melbourne, VIC, and am currently working for a winery while studying Wine Science. I love making things! I have been dabbling in home-brewing and fermenting foods and drinks for a while now. It’s good fun and I highly recommend it.
This year I made a small barrel of sweet red Vermouth. You might have come to this page from a QR code on the back of a bottle of “V”. If you haven’t tried this vermouth and you’d like to, get in touch, I may still have some lying around…
Making the 2017 “V” Vermouth was terrific fun. I made it entirely in my apartment, mostly from Sunbury Shiraz grapes that I foot stomped and manually pressed (squeezed) on my 1x4m balcony. 26 botanicals were macerated in combinations of high-proof spirit and the wine itself, then added to the wine to fortify it to about 16.5% alcohol. It was then sweetened with grape juice concentrate (to about 100g/L) and subsequently aged in French oak for 6 months. That’s the gist of it anyway – I could go into higher technical detail here but I’ll restrain myself unless anyone is really interested!
The romance of “Urban Winemaking”.
I think that the end result in the 2017 Vermouth represents the most that can realistically be achieved given the technical, logistical and financial constraints inherent in making a quality aperitif in a small apartment/urban car-park.
And I’m pretty happy with it, all that considered. It’s not my first attempt making Vermouth, but it is my most successful for sure. I now feel that I have enough confidence and experience making vermouth to scale up and make a small commercial volume of it. There are a few things I would probably do differently, but the process would essentially be the same. The one thing I lack is the financial means to do it.
I’ve been asked that a lot. I’d love to make a commercial volume of table wine one day. I certainly could give it a go if not for the same financial constraints. My thinking at the moment is that maybe there’s a roof on how much enjoyment and authentic ownership I would feel from merely buying someone’s grapes and presenting a snapshot of their vineyard and farming decisions through a wine that I am sort of babysitting along the way to bottle. I’d love to own my own vineyard of course (maybe that’s one for another crowdfunding campaign….), and buying grapes is something I’m sure I’ll do at some point, but I think I will always make vermouth anyway. Because It’s fun, that’s the short answer! The enjoyment I get from this line of work is in blending things together from raw ingredients, and challenging and engaging with my senses. Vermouth allows me that enjoyment in a really direct way. Working with botanicals is tremendous fun, and it’s a calibrating, humbling sort of exercise at the same time.
Blending of botanical Tincture groups for “V” 2017 Vermouth.
To add a brief addendum to that answer, Australia has a rich history of making fortified and aromatised wines. I am all about authenticity and making something distinctively ‘of the land’ that’s divorced from a European accent. I think there is a lot of headroom and room for growth in that sense in the craft spirits market in this country, and honestly, while I’d be standing on the shoulders of giants like MAiDENii and Regal Rogue who have been shaping that conversation as pioneers of a sort for some time now, I still feel like I could have something valid and potentially unique to contribute to the market.
In summary, I am positively itching to make something on a larger scale but I just lack the means to do it. This is a crowdfunding campaign for a small, but commercial batch of sweet red vermouth that I’d like to make from the ground up, with the idea being to make a finished aperitif that has a place on a table, brings people together and makes them hungry. Ideally it will be food-friendly, and it will speak of the place the grapes are grown, the varieties used, the botanicals foraged and the fun I had making it in roughly equal parts.
Artemisia absinthium / Common wormwood.
Making booze is more expensive than I first thought! I have given this budget a lot of thought and gained the advice of people in the industry to hone in some of these numbers. That said, some numbers are estimates, but if that’s the case, they are conservative estimates.
That said, I don’t intend to square up the total expenses I’m about to list with a funding goal and call it a day. That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, since I’d like to sell this product commercially as well.
For this reason, my funding goal is quite low compared to my estimate of incurred costs. This is because I intend to make it anyway and fund some of it myself (somehow), since if I’m able to sell it all, I may be able to recoup some expenses and maybe reinvest it in doing it again.
But play along, I’ll run through a list of expenses anyway so you know what’s involved in doing something on this scale.
for which I expect to spend around $1000 for a tonne. I feel like that’s a good amount to start with. It will net me maybe 2 barrels worth when all is said and done – that’s maybe 450L or 600 odd bottles. 100 x 6pk cases. These are nice round numbers to play with for this purpose, but in practice, logistics will dictate the final yield.
The next major expense is the usage of facilities and equipment, for which a standard fee of $1600 per tonne applies. I may be able to rent barrels for free so I will leave that out of the expenses for the time being. But I will need a small variable capacity tank which will cost me nearly $800.
Obtaining fortifying spirit is a tricky one. High-proof, neutral grape-based spirit is almost impossible to come by without concessional spirits permit through the ATO. I don’t see this as a huge obstacle, but it’s a time consuming one which is predicated on me having the right liquor license to begin with (which is associated with it’s own costs). I think the most sensible option is to apply for an excise free license with the ATO which will allow me to buy spirit from a licensed distiller. I will need at least 80L of spirit. Brandy or Eau-du-vie is available in a minimum order of a 200L drum, however having more than I need is ideal for future batches. This amount of spirit, including transport and the drum itself, would cost me just under $1400.
Botanicals were one of the biggest expenses for the 2017 vermouth. But in fairness, I went a bit silly with botanicals as I wanted to experiment a bit with what might work. I think it would be sensible to simplify things and go for a less is more kind of approach, and forage a lot myself if possible. Still, obtaining certain botanicals in large enough quantities will incur an expense. Extrapolating from the suppliers I’ve used in the past, I’d expect to spend maybe $500, conservatively. A large part of this would be in buying organic, unsprayed fruit which is important to me since I’d be using the zest/rind.
Packaging (bottles, boxes, dividers) costs around $1500, and then the actual bottling fee would be $900. Label printing and design is a big investment and I’d like to get it right – especially since I’d like to do this again some day! I’m told that this can run north of $4000 for the quantity I’d need, but I’ll bring it down to earth and budget labels at $2500.
Then I’d need a liquor license to sell it, which is around $900 for just the first year. Actually maybe I’ll leave that out of the budget, it’s my own expense.
I’m at around $10,000 now, again, rounding down. If I were to somehow fund this myself, and aimed to essentially break even and just recoup my costs, I would have to charge a per bottle cost of $16.66 LUC to a retailer, or a neat $100 per 6 pack case before tax. Adding 29% WET, and 10% GST, that’s $141.90 a case, or $23.65 p/b I’d sell onto a retailer. The retailer then might mark that up to $33 a bottle. This is a model that excludes a distributor and logistics, I’d be doing that myself. I’d be able to claim back some of the tax via the WET rebate, which would be reinvested in doing the whole thing again.
So, that model is pretty established and is actually what I intend to do with the remainder of the finished product (ie. what’s not allocated through crowdfunding rewards). Though the final, actual numbers I sell to a retailer at will be determined by the actual final quantities, and will be more related to the actual incurred costs.
The purpose of crowdfunding this project is to sort of cut out the retailer middleman for as much of the finished product as possible, and to offer an “en-primeur” of sorts. I want to keep it as simple as possible, and I’d like some help to afford the upfront costs associated with doing this, basically!
– If you pledge $20, you’ll get a bottle. Pledge $100, get a case of 6.
– I would like to accept pledges of any small amount, however crowdfunding has it’s logistical limitations. If you would like to support this project but don’t want to commit to the funding options available, an amazing thing you could do for me is simply spread the word by sharing a link to this page on your social media accounts or by telling people about this thing. Seriously, I have no expectations, but this would be terrific of you. You will be helping a small business get off the ground and ultimately to make a better quality product. You will be rewarded with good will and sweet, sweet karma.
– Because making things is fun, I am making a home-brew sour ale and ageing it in the 50L Vermouth Barrel from the “V” 2017 project. It will be aged for 12-18 months. I have no idea how it will turn out but if you pledge $10 you’ll get a bottle!
– Another reward option if you are not interested in beer: If you pledge $10, half of that will go towards this project, and the other half will go towards carbon neutral to offset carbon emissions by planting trees. Let’s delay the now inevitable heat death of our planet together! 1 like = 1 prayer (1 pledge = 1 tree). Jokes, this is actually a great cause. Do it.
– Maybe some more reward options to come! Stay tuned.
My “goal” is $5000. ReadyFundGo will take 5% of that, but that’s pretty much halfway for the purposes of this hypothetical, estimated budget. I am just hoping that crowdfunding will meet me halfway with the upfront costs, to make this a less daunting and more possible thing.
If my goal of $5000 is exceeded, I will have less to sell on to retailers/on-premise. Not necessarily a bad thing. If my manufacturing costs estimate of $10,000 is somehow reached, I have capped pledges to ensure that all those who have pledged money receive their allocation, since simply scaling up production is not really an option for this project.
I think that’s all I wanted to mention. Thanks for your interest and if you read this far, double-thanks! That was a lot to read! Well done.
Cheers, and thanks for your help! Let’s give this a go together and make something fun.