Litmus Winemaking

Hidden Risks of Using Litmus Wines for Winemaking [26 July 2016]

With 20 years of using various winemakers to produce our wines behind us we are aware that when choosing a winemaker we tend to assume that the wine-making process will be straightforward, and that our only costs will be those listed. In practice this is rarely the case as there are so many variables involved and what really is needed is a winemaker that we can work with to sort out difficulties.

For many years we have worked well with winemakers solving issues as we went along, but our current experience with Litmus Wines shows how the assumption of co-operation when difficulties arise can be incorrect and that extra risks [and costs] are the result. This article lists our experiences so that others can be aware of them when choosing a winemaker.

Difficulty 1. – Imposition of Contract.

The contract was imposed after delivery of the grapes. This was [as is usual in our experience] heavily biased towards the winemaker. Attempts to modify it were met by a threat to stop work and a requirement to take the must elsewhere. Thus we were bullied into signing it as is [is a contract signed under duress a valid contract?].

Difficulty 2 – All or nothing.

The pre-bottle tasting and adjustment did not give confidence in the quality of the wine and it was felt advisable to bottle a batch [so as to measure the effect of filtering] before committing to a complete bottling. This was refused, resulting in increased risk of producing inferior wine. It later became clear that the wine was faulty [next para] and a batch bottling would have risked this becoming known to us.

Difficulty 3 – Undisclosed Quality Problem.

The wine that was delivered was below specification. Both the pre-bottle wine test and the post-bottle wine test showed the copper content to be more than the .5 mg/l limit for Quality Wine [the required standard defined in the contract]. This was kept hidden until a copy of the Campden BRI test certificates was requested – after delivery of the wine. If this had been known before delivery then the contract provides for a degree of rectification.

Difficulty 4 – No Compensation / Arbitration

The contract appears to offer compensation and if necessary arbitration but Litmus refuse to discuss this.

Difficulty 5 – Stoppage of Work

When difficulties arise Litmus reaction is to stop work on any processing in hand – in our case refusing to disgorge sparkling from the previous vintage. Of course it is unrealistic to expect another vineyard to take on the job half way through the process.

In conclusion, when choosing a winemaker be aware that Litmus are not only expensive if there are no difficulties but they are inflexible and very difficult to deal with when things do not go smoothly. We would be interested to hear from other vineyards that have used Litmus services, and intend to update this article from time to time.