Behind the Scenes: Sustainability in Our Winemaking Process

In honor of our upcoming harvest season, let’s take a look behind the scenes to understand sustainability in our winemaking at Biltmore.

Fall marks the beginning of our winemaking process. During the seasonal harvest, our grapes are hand-picked in the vineyard and brought to the Winery, where their stems are removed.

Harvesting grapes in Biltmore's vineyard on the west side of the estate
Grapes are picked by hand in Biltmore’s vineyard on the west side of the estate

The grapes are then crushed and put in tanks to ferment. Afterwards, our wines are moved into barrels or other tanks to age. Some varieties need six months for aging, while other need up to two years. Finally, our wines are blended, bottled, and sealed.

The process is a delicate balance of art and science. And if you take a glimpse behind the scenes, you’ll find that our efforts are geared towards more than just crafting award-winning wines. We also strive for environmental stewardship and sustainability in winemaking, every step of the way.

Composting grapes

We combine all remaining parts of the grapes—skins, seeds, and even the woody stems—with recycled plants and other organic matter at our large compost site. About once a year, after being turned regularly, the finished compost is used as fertilizer in our gardens as well as our field crops, which serve as food plots for wildlife on the estate.

Repurposing barrels

Wine barrels in Biltmore's Barrel Room

Once our Winery can no longer use its wine barrels, made of French, American, and Hungarian oak blends, they are repurposed across the estate in a variety of ways.

For instance, many wine barrels end up at A Gardener’s Place shop to be used as decorative holders for estate-grown plants. Some barrels are used to create rustic-style bars for outdoor Winery events, while others find their way into Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate and The Kitchen Café to be used as towel containers and trash cans.    

“Almost all of the businesses on the property have repurposed a barrel at one time or another,” says Biltmore winemaker Sharon Fenchak.

Recycling corks

Cork recycling barrel for sustainability in winemaking
A wine barrel repurposed for recycling corks

In addition to recycling the usual materials—cardboard, plastic, glass, paper, and steel—the Winery recycles wine corks.

Natural corks, as opposed to screw caps and synthetic corks, are the most sustainable wine closure on the market

Cork is a renewable and biodegradable material harvested through an environmentally friendly process. We have partnered with Cork Forest Conservation Alliance through their Cork ReHarvest program to help educate the public on the importance of using and recycling natural corks.

Cork recycling locations include:

  • Gate House Gift Shop, located at the main entrance of Biltmore
  • Biltmore Winery
  • Estate restaurants

You can also mail used corks to:

Biltmore Estate Wine Company
Re: Cork Recycling
1 North Pack Square
Asheville, NC 28801


Savor the Art and Science of Winemaking

“The art and science of winemaking—for nearly 20 years, that’s how Bernard Delille and I described ourselves,” said Sharon Fenchak, winemaker and vice president of wine production for Biltmore.

Sharon Fenchak and Bernard Delille enjoy a glass of wine in Biltmore's vineyard
Biltmore winemakers Sharon Fenchak and Bernard Delille (now retired) enjoy a glass of wine in Biltmore’s vineyard

“Before his retirement in 2018, that’s also what we accomplished as a team,” Sharon said. 

A shared philosophy

“Our backgrounds were very different, with Bernard having begun his winemaking career in France,” said Sharon, “while my passion for the craft began while I was in the U.S. Army, stationed in Vicenza, Italy.

Despite their differences, the two shared a philosophy of creating high-quality wines that are true to varietal character while still being food-friendly and approachable.

Savor the art and science of Biltmore wines
Sharon and Bernard at work in Biltmore’s wine lab, tasting the scientific results of the art of winemaking

Raising a glass to retirement

When Bernard announced he planned to retire in July 2018, all the members of the wine production team wanted to handcraft a special wine that would commemorate their years of working together.

“We knew it had to be outstanding,” Sharon said. “It needed to speak to all that we’ve accomplished as a team, and to reflect the distinctive direction in which we’ve developed Biltmore wines.”

Art and science in Biltmore’s vineyard

Grapes ripening in Biltmore's vineyard
Grapes ripening in Biltmore’s vineyard

For the wine itself, Sharon and the wine production team looked no further than the natural outgrowth of “art and science” in Biltmore’s vineyard.

When she joined Biltmore’s wine production team in 1999, one of Sharon’s first projects involved a clonal selection initiative in the estate’s vineyards. “Clone” refers to a cutting or bud from an original varietal.

Biltmore winemaker Sharon Fenchak in the vineyard
In addition to her other winemaking responsibilities, Sharon oversees the estate’s vineyard

“The vineyard team was working with Dijon Chardonnay clones,” said Sharon, “and we were looking for those best suited to the conditions of the estate vineyard. From a winemaking and viticulture standpoint, clones 76, 95, and 96 showed great promise, producing smaller, looser clusters of grapes with more intense flavors and aromatics.”

The 2017 harvest of these distinctive clones would result in the first release featuring them exclusively, and Sharon knew these grapes were the perfect ones for a signature Chardonnay in honor of Bernard’s dynamic career and their long partnership.

Labeling a work of art

“For the label, we wanted something that illustrated the idea of art and science,” Sharon said. “The marketing team created a number of different concepts, from traditional monograms to some very fun graphics that had grape vines turning into the scientific formula for malolactic fermentation!”

X marks the spot

Commemorative label for the Bernard and Sharon wine
The commemorative Chardonnay label featuring Bernard’s handwriting font at the bottom

According to Lisa Vogel, art director, the design finally came together with an X-shaped cross of the two winemakers’ names and a traditional wax seal featuring their initials in the middle.

“Everyone admired Bernard’s beautiful penmanship,” said Lisa, “so we created a special font entitled ‘Delille’ from his actual handwriting to further personalize the collaboration represented by the label and the wine inside the bottle.”

“It’s a remarkable Chardonnay with a compelling label,” said Sharon. “I hope that everyone who tries it truly savors the art and science of winemaking it represents—including the expertise of our vineyard team who nurtured and harvested the grapes and the care with which the wine production team handcrafts all our Biltmore wines.”

Savor our wines by the bottle or glass

Woman enjoying Biltmore Estate Chardonnay
Biltmore wines are perfect for warm weather sipping!

Purchase Biltmore wines at the estate, online, or find them close to home.

While visiting Biltmore’s Winery, reserve a time to savor a complimentary tasting of our award-winning wines in person.