Curious Small Sips #10: Cooperatives

Not just the name of your friendly local supermarket or funeral home, a cooperative is the name given to an agricultural and winemaking venture, jointly owned by many different members. At the beginning of the 20th century, the agricultural cooperative was a necessary economic development, which helped to deal with a great many factors that had affected the industry in the last third of the 19th century, not least of which was the phylloxera crisis.

The majority of wine co-ops were formed in the 1930s in the aftermath of Depression and their birth succeeded in modernising and strengthening the sector. Collectively co-ops have access to a broad range of financial incentives and subsidies, particularly in the EU, and winemaking and marketing costs can be pooled.

They are at their strongest in areas where the wine’s selling price is relatively low, like Languedoc in France and areas of Spain such as La Mancha, and thrive in areas like Yecla and Jumilla where the standard of equipment and expertise is above average for the country. In France, since 1975 more than half of the wine produced in the country has been by cooperatives and standards are very high with an impressive amount of Appellation Contrôlée wine being cultivated and sold.

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Image: Entrance to Bodegas Pinoso, cooperative winery in Alicante, Spain; © Bodegas Pinoso.

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