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Justin Charbonneau

GrapeConnect: An Online Wholesale Marketplace Platform for Bulk Wine & Grapes

GrapeConnect’s powerful platform and tools supercharge sales, sourcing, and analytics for wine companies that depend on the bulk wine & grape trade.


SELLING: Connecting growers & wine producers with active buyers and equipping them with the tools to sell available inventory more efficiently and securely.


BUYING: Connecting wine producers, negociants, & brokers with a robust supplier network and the tools to efficiently find and buy the best product for their programs.


MARKET INTELLIGENCE: Empowering buyers, sellers, and affiliated industry professionals to make better decisions through quicker access to transparent and granular market pricing data.

Trade Show Guide: Online Wholesale Marketplace Platform for Bulk Wine & Grapes

The GrapeConnect team is thrilled to be exhibiting for the very first time at this year’s Unified Wine & Grape Symposium. GrapeConnect co-founders, Justin (CEO) and Mikus (CTO) will be at booth #P2294, excited to share GrapeConnect’s story, walk you through our platform, and answer any questions you might have about our company. Please also be sure to visit to learn a bit more about us, as well as to download our 2019 Grape and Bulk Wine Market Pricing Report, for free!

GrapeConnect UWGS Booth: P2294

GrapeConnect is the wine industry’s online wholesale marketplace platform for bulk wine & grapes. Our powerful platform and tools supercharge sales, sourcing, and analytics for wine companies that depend on the bulk wine & grape trade. We help sellers by connecting them with active buyers and equipping them with the tools to sell available inventory more efficiently and securely. We help buyers by connecting them with a robust supplier network and the tools to efficiently find and buy the best product for their programs. We help buyers, sellers, and affiliated industry professionals to make better decisions through quicker access to transparent and granular market pricing data. Visit us at

News Archive

Domestic Bulk Wine Logistics, Part I: The Why, Who, and When.
13 January, 2020


Managing harvest and demand challenges in a dynamic wine market leads many wineries to look to the bulk wine market for adjusting offerings to optimize profits. Shipping wine in bulk is also considerably more cost-effective than shipping in bottles or cans and allows winemakers to store, modify or blend wine prior to bottling.

Once the decision to engage will the bulk wine market is made, winemakers interested in buying/selling bulk wine will almost certainly need to arrange and pay for shipping at some point. A significant component of bulk wine’s cost and management can be its transport, so it is advantageous to have a good system in place.

There are several factors to consider with shipping bulk wine/juice, but at the center of a successful process is communication. In addition to saving a considerable chunk of time better spent elsewhere, proper communication will also vastly reduce the chance of costly errors with potentially valuable purchase/sale transactions.


Who is responsible for shipping, the buyer or seller? Typically, the buyer; some buyers have preferred carriers they like to work with, but most are willing to take the best price. Obtaining multiple freight quotes is an opportunity for sellers to provide value as well as the ability to negotiate competitive rates with freight brokers or individual carriers, even if these costs end up getting passed along to the buyer.

Regardless whether or not the seller elects to assist with logistics coordination, in any given situation, the ultimate responsibility usually rests with the buyer. For example, during certain times of the year, it would be acceptable to ship totes or case goods in trailers that are not protected with refrigeration for considerable cost savings –but the responsibility of this choice should reside with the buyer.

Who will handle the shipment? Shipments are booked directly with a carrier or through a freight broker; regardless of which route you take, there are many details to consider to efficiently ship wine. There are several companies that offer freight-brokering services with knowledge of common transit lanes for numerous carriers that are able to provide multiple quotes fairly quickly. Some of these services come with higher broker margins than others, but the convenience afforded by the expertise may outweigh the additional expense. Some common freight brokers used domestically include:

Some examples of direct carriers for bulk include:

There are also companies that specialize in temperature-controlled van transport, one example being Advantage Transportation. Depending on the distance and time constraints, Fed-Ex Freight (non-temperature controlled) may be worth considering for direct booking of less-than-load (LTL) freight.


One of the first decisions for shipping wine is coordinating when it will be ready to ship and when it needs to arrive. Once a carrier is secured, the scheduling of load date(s) and time(s) should be done by the seller to help ensure hours, staffing, and wine status are aligned, and for more efficient re-scheduling if necessary.

If there is no temperature control being used, the weather during the trip will be a factor. If the receiving winery has an active tasting room, weekend deliveries may not be ideal. It is generally more efficient to establish delivery windows and then allow the affected winery to be the primary contact for scheduling and adjusting loading and receiving times.

It is frustrating to have someone stay late to load or receive a truck only to find out it has been delayed without communication or consideration of cellar staff schedules or workload. This oversight may also become costly as carriers typically retain the ability to charge more for excessive loading/unloading times.


Stay tuned for Part II, where we will dive into the ‘How’ of domestic bulk wine shipping.


What else? Have any feedback or other insights to share on the why, who, and when of domestic bulk wine shipping? Or another GrapeConnect blog topic all together? Email us at

It’s a Match! Now What? Transitioning from Bulk Wine Sampling to Sales Confirmation
10 December, 2019

You have searched, swiped and sampled…looking for the perfect addition to your wine program.  Perhaps you found success through a friend of a friend, or maybe the pairing was facilitated through GrapeConnect’s marketplace platform. Taking the next steps to make it official doesn’t have to be scary if you keep the following considerations in mind:

Just as with any other stage of grape/bulk wine transactions, the more efficiently and completely all details are communicated, the smoother and less painful the whole arrangement is likely to be. Keep the adage about making assumptions in mind when considering the below variables:

  1. Confirm the wine/grapes to be purchased or sold; be sure to include any specific compositional aspects needed to support future label claims (ie. If you want to bottle finished wine as Willamette Valley, you should specify Willamette Valley at this stage
  2. Confirm the price per gallon – are there any price breaks based on quantity
  3. How many gallons are being considered? The actual final gallons may not be determined until shipping
  4. What is the wine’s status? Is it bottle-ready or are there any additional costs for blending/filtration(s)? Are there any costs associated with protective target SO2 levels and/or gassing procedures
  5. Confirm tax status; for bulk wine transfers, it is generally bond to bond. When wine is being shipped to a bottling/canning/kegging facility that is considered a Tax Paid Wine Bottling House, then it would have to be shipped as tax paid. Additional information on excise tax may be found at: . Juice/grapes do not need to have a specified tax shipping status
  6. Outline the quantity, size, and cost of any additional items; totes, extra samples, etc.
  7. Define the terms of payment (100% Pre-Pay, % Deposit, Net 15, etc.). Payments may be made by check, wire, credit card or facilitated through GrapeConnect’s Onsite Direct Payment service
  8. Confirm the “payable to” entity and complete shipping address (include Bonded Winery #) for the wine, understanding that these may be different from the sample or tasting room address(es)
  9. Clearly establish who will be responsible for securing and paying for freight. Buyers typically cover shipping costs, however, sellers may have established accounts with carriers/brokers and could secure freight on the buyer’s behalf depending on the relationship. There can be a fair bit of time and effort involved obtaining quotes and securing and scheduling freight on behalf of buyers that might justify a small service fee being added to the cost of the freight that is being covered by the seller and passed along to the buyer. This would be a cost plus situation. Alternatively, and in many cases, buyers arrange and pay a broker/carrier directly for shipping (watch for more on this topic in a future post).

Any and all transaction details mentioned above may be formalized with a purchase order (if you are a buyer), a sales contract or a proforma invoice (if you are a seller). There are several templates available online for these documents if your current wine software does not have something suitable.


Clearly communicating all expectations at this stage in a single document/source will significantly reduce the chance of costly errors, delays and misunderstandings down the road.

What else? Have any feedback or other insights to share on grape/bulk wine sales confirmation? Or another GrapeConnect blog topic? Email us at

The Do’s and Don’ts of Bulk Wine Sampling, a Step-by-Step Overview
08 November, 2019

One of the most friction-filled aspects of bulk wine and shiner sales is the sampling process. Given that virtually every such transaction we’ve facilitated begins with a buyer requesting a sample, this process is, in our view, an under-appreciated competency that can set your winery and bulk wine sales program apart. Likewise, as a buyer –particularly if a first-time buyer—it’s advantageous to better familiarize yourself with the sampling process. This know-how will help you streamline your decision-making and potentially avoid logistical and financial headaches.

Step 1: Sample Requests

Whether from an existing network of sellers, or from a resource like or GrapeConnect, buyers will typically reach out for samples via email, phone, or on GrapeConnect: via tailored sample-request functionality (shameless plug). Sellers will almost always cover the full cost of preparing and shipping samples to qualified buyers, more on this later.

Before requesting a sample, buyers should be (at least roughly) cognizant of a seller’s minimum order requirements –particularly if seeking a relatively small quantity. For reference, most bulk wine sellers on GrapeConnect specify a 275-gallon minimum order requirement, a common plastic tote sizing option for transport.

Once the buyer is ready to request a sample, they should proactively provide the following information in the initial request (streamlined in an easy, step-by-step wizard if using GrapeConnect):

  • Which lot/lots of wine they’re interested in sampling
  • Buyer’s name and winery name
  • Shipping address
  • Bonded Winery Number (BWN): most sellers will not (and should not) ship to unlicensed buyers; buyers should also be aware of potential laws in their state that would prevent a successful bulk wine transaction from materializing
  • Number of samples desired: the buyer should understand how many samples to request based on who will need to taste the wine as a part of the decision-making process; it is most courteous of the seller’s time and incurred shipping expense to ask for additional samples upfront as opposed to over multiple shipments.
  • Quantity desired, in the event that the sample fits the buyer’s program and both parties can come to terms.
  • Sought price range, if pricing of the sampled product is not provided upfront. If the buyer’s expectations are far off from the seller’s acceptable range, best to avoid the wasted time on both sides.
  • Any timeline constraints that the seller should know about regarding the consideration of the sample or the final bulk wine purchase.

Step 2: Sample Fulfillment

Sellers should be mindful to embrace some type of system to track their sample requests, as management exclusively through email, text, or phone can become quite difficult when dealing with a high volume of inquiries and will inevitably lead to errors or lost opportunities. On GrapeConnect, sellers leverage the Sample Requests tab and respective Sample Request Managers to stay on top of the process from start to finish.

Samples can be pulled on a monthly basis, prior to an advertising effort, or on an as needed basis. Once a seller elects to send a sample to an inquiring would-be buyer, winery lab personnel (if available) typically process the sample request. The requested wine is recorded, the tank is identified, and the sample is obtained and labeled. When labeling the sample, sellers would be well-served to include the following information on the sample itself, or on a package-insert:

  • Varietal/s (helpful to include % of each if a blend)
  • Vintage
  • Region/Appellation
  • Total quantity available
  • Price
  • Seller name and contact info
  • Lot ID/Code, if applicable

Ideally, the sample will be representative of the lot of wine for sale and be collected and presented in a time frame that is in line with the age and stage of the wine.  Filtered, stable wine samples will last longer in a bottle than wine at other stages or levels of preservation (Sulfur Dioxide).

The most successful sellers will also be consistent in their material selection and process to obtain and package samples. We understand that it may be tempting to reach for whatever extra glass you have lying around but having a repeatable procedure will come off more professionally to the buyer and avoid errors. We see this as especially true with choice of closure –an all too common error we see are buyers receiving empty sample bottles, realizing that all the wine has leaked out! This is an easily preventable error that demands additional time, expense and might even ruin the chance of a successful deal.

Samples are then packaged (possibly with tasting notes) for shipping with UPS, FedEx, GSO, etc. to the requesting winery/winemaker. From our experience, sellers almost always cover the expense of drawing and shipping the sample, provided the requester is a viable potential buyer (see above regarding being properly licensed, able to meet seller’s minimum order requirements, etc.). We have, in a minority of instances, seen sellers request that buyers cover the cost of shipping the samples if they have not worked together in the past. As a buyer, you can assume that there will not be a cost associated with requesting samples unless the seller tells you otherwise.

The most successful sellers then supply tracking information to the buyer. Considering that shipments of alcohol must be signed for, this information allows for schedule preplanning as well as the ability to track a sample down if it has ended up in the warehouse versus the tasting room or vice versa, for example. Regardless of the given scenario, on GrapeConnect, this tactic has shown to expedite the sampling process and increase the likelihood of a successful transaction.

Step 3: Sample Request Management & Transition to Order Processing

After the requester receives the wine, the seller needs to follow-up, generally around a week later via phone or email (for those without GrapeConnect, as our platform has automatic and action-based follow-up notifications built into the Sample Request Manager). Follow-up contact typically yields a “yes”, “no”, request for an additional sample, or something along the lines of “reach out again in ‘x’ days”. These results should be tracked and recorded somewhere, as previously mentioned.

Throughout the sampling process, the buyer should proactively communicate with the seller, even if the sample has not yet arrived or is still under consideration. Do you need a lab report, breakdown of the oak regiment, or other pertinent information prior to finalizing a purchase? Successful buyers keep a healthy stream of dialogue open with the seller, including feedback if the sample is not a fit for their program. We see many buyers shy away from providing this needed feedback, as it’s understandably uncomfortable. However, out of respect for the seller’s time, it’s a critically courteous action that will be appreciated. It’s fine to keep your “no” generic and pleasant, however –you might be surprised by the result of sharing more information on why it’s a “no”…we’ve seen numerous deals materialize after an initial “no”, as the seller might have other lots for the buyer to consider.

What about if it’s a “yes”? Once an order is confirmed, the details of price, wine, quantity, billing and shipping information, payment terms, transport method/responsibility/cost, target SO2 levels, and delivery timing need to be determined, recorded and edited as the process moves along. Many of these can be outlined on a pro forma invoice/simple bulk wine sales agreement. One of the biggest challenges for sellers in this part of the process can be taking care to ensure that the wine that was sampled and approved for purchase is the same wine that eventually gets shipped. There can be considerable time and cellar movements/operations that take place between receiving the order and shipping the wine. Anyhow, that’s a topic for another day!

What else? Have any feedback or other insights to share on bulk wine sampling? Email us at or visit

Grape & Bulk Wine Market Pricing Report: Q3, 2019
02 October, 2019

The GrapeConnect team is pleased to share our Market Pricing Report for the Third Quarter of 2019. Harvest is now well underway, and we hope that the average advertised spot-market pricing data for grapes in Q3, 2019 proves especially helpful for folks that still have 2019 fruit for sale.


Click here to view the full report


As with our prior reports, we illustrated Q3’s quarterly average market pricing comparison for 2019 versus that of 2018 for both bulk wine and grapes. We did this for the top 5 varietals by listing volume (see the ‘Assumptions & Methodology‘ section in the report for more information) and parsed data by state.



Below, you can see summary graphs by state (CA, OR, and WA) illustrating the varying levels of percentage-change in pricing by respective varietal and listing-type for Q3 ’19 as compared to Q3 ‘18:


Click here to view the full report


To provide meaningful pricing data for a larger number of varietals and with greater granularity, we also assembled average-pricing heat-maps that reflect a longer time horizon (1/01/18 – 9/30/19 for bulk wine, 1/01/19 – 90/30/19 for 2019-harvest grapes). A heat-map preview for Cabernet Sauvignon bulk wine is shown below, where the higher-priced appellations are focused toward the top of the visualization:

The grape-pricing heatmaps are structured to display pricing for numerous varietals by state where, as above, the higher-priced appellations are focused toward the top of the visualization:

Our team welcomes you to reach out with feedback or questions.



Click here to view the full report

GrapeConnect Now ‘a Real Force in the Industry’ for Grape, Bulk Wine Transactions
30 August, 2019

It was just three years ago that Justin Charbonneau first realized the need for a service that would give buyers and sellers of bulk wine and grapes a more amenable place to find one another.

Based in Atlanta, he began working with family friends who were starting a winery in northern Georgia and were struggling to find bulk wine to buy until the newly planted vines could start producing grapes.

Justin Charbonneau 

In the end they found their wine, but he recalls there “wasn’t any kind of discussion around finding the best product at the best price. It was such a laborious and friction- filled process where we were just happy to find anyone who was willing to ship California Cab across the country.”

That experience led to the creation of GrapeConnect, the wine industry’s wholesale grape and bulk-wine marketplace that aims to become the standard B2B marketplace for wine producers.

In its early days it was strictly a directory, but that landing page evolved into much more, as people began reaching out wanting to post their information. “Eventually we got to the point, about a year and a half ago, where we completely scrapped the directory altogether and now we have over 1,200 active lots for sale posted by sellers directly to GrapeConnect.”

Indeed, for those who remember visiting the site a couple years ago when it was in its infancy, Charbonneau suggests coming back to see what it has become now: a powerful online platform that supercharges sales, sourcing, and analytics for wine companies that depend on the bulk wine and grape trade.

For sellers, it connects growers and wine producers with active buyers and equips them with the tools to sell available inventory more efficiently and securely.

For buyers, it connects wine producers, negociants and brokers with a robust supplier network and the tools to efficiently find and buy the best product for their programs.

Both sides benefit greatly by GrapeConnect’s market intelligence, allowing them to make better decisions through quicker access to transparent and granular market pricing data. The company has even started to produce quarterly pricing reports that incorporate data scraped from publicly available sources in addition to its own material posted specifically to the platform by producers and brokers.

“Interest in that data has been pretty surprising and overwhelming; even folks who have no interest in selling or sourcing on the marketplace access and leverage that data,“ he says.

While GrapeConnect has grown rapidly over the past couple years in a market that can shift in a matter of months, it takes great pride in its ability to listen to its customers and make those adjustments on the fly.

“We’re still an early stage company,” Charbonneau says, “but we’re regularly facilitating deals and have been around long enough to make a real impact for many of our users, so whether it’s our data being picked up or delivering great outcomes for people, we’re certainly now a real force in the industry.”

For more information go to:

" GrapeConnect’s platform allows both the buyer and seller to communicate in real time about samples, what the buyer thinks of wine as well as a great messaging board system…it has become a valuable tool in my bulk wine business "
- Travis Maple, Airfield Estates Winery
" The team at GrapeConnect provides a great service! If we lose our first bud to frost, or have other weather-related issues that leave us short, we can count on GrapeConnect to hook us up with quality growers elsewhere. "
- Alexis Kaiser, Woods & Waters Winery & Vineyard
" GrapeConnect is an impressive and unique source of market prices and potential buyers, particularly for Oregon and Washington. Being able to see market demand by appellation helps shape our planting and production strategy, including varietal selection and determining whether to make bulk wine or just stop at the grapes. "
- Craig Wichner, Farmland LP
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