How to Start a Wine Business

Nancy Belle Hansford / Founder of Watkinsville Wine

April 14, 2023

Guest Bio

Nancy Belle Hansford / Founder of Watkinsville Wine

Turning 21 and ordering your first glass of wine is always a thrill, but turning 21 during the first lockdown of a global pandemic makes that quite challenging.

During the initial COVID-19 lockdown, I read William Baker's autobiography, in which he recounts his time as an Alcatraz prisoner. What stood out to me most was his experience making wine with stolen fruit and bread yeast. I thought to myself, "If he can do this in prison, I can do it in quarantine." Thankfully I was turning 21 in a few days, so I asked my parents for a 5-gallon (19-L) bucket and some apple juice.

Immediately I was captivated by the process of carefully measuring ingredients and seeing how they interact even though I was completely unaware of each ingredients' purpose. I tend to jump into new things because I love the thrill of having to figure things out on my own through trial and error. I was just trusting a recipe I found online, but the more I read about winemaking, the more I wanted to learn. Soon I was boring my family at the dinner table explaining why I had bought an acid blend for my next batch.

I had yet to think about what to do once it was time to bottle, so after 7 weeks, I had to get creative. Using recycled Chickfila gallon jugs and mason jars, I stored the wine in my parent's kitchen. This may have been okay if it was temporary, but my school, Berry College, reopened, so I moved back to my dry campus and had to leave all of my new wine with my family (who rarely consume alcohol).

Months later, when my second, third, and fourth batches were ready to bottle, my parents told me it was time to find a new home for my rapidly growing collection of wines. Without any thought, I made an Instagram, branded my new hobby as "Watkinsville Wine" (named after my hometown), and started sharing my journey with all of my friends and family. Once I attained the required licenses, I began selling to everyone who had been so supportive of me from the very beginning!

To learn more, check out Nancy Belle's full story here:

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