When I made the decision to become a winemaker the first thing I had to do was get qualified. As it happens my interests have been more on the Oenology side rather than Viticulture and this is where my efforts and training have been focused. I'm more than happy to buy good grapes from someone that loves doing the viticultural side of things.
But even after this amount of time, or maybe especially today, people still struggle with the concept of a 'Virtual Winery', or a winery that can exist without owning vineyards or winery. If it's a big winery then that's ok, no thought is given to it. Large wineries all the time buy grapes from growers and have them processed by someone else into wine.
People happily purchase a wine made by a 'Negociant' in France no questions asked. A Negociant is someone who as the name suggests sources wine from a Chateau or producer meeting the quality and style requirements, and then blends a house style for their own purposes and takes that to market. This has happened for hundreds of years.
In Max Allen's book on winemaker Maurice O'Shea who was the original developer of the Mount Pleasant vineyard, he related how Maurice would go around to many of the Hunter wineries at the end of vintage and find the most favourable parcels, bring them into his own winery and then go to work on them for his creations. Apparently some of these wines were still drinking extraordinarily well after multiple decades, and very recognisable. Nobody ever really knew what gave them that kind of longevity, but it's pretty safe to say that it's in the blending.
As a small producer using these same models in Australia often times people, on the face of it, find that less legitimate. The general view is that a small producer has to have a vineyard and cellar door otherwise you are just not serious about winemaking. My own view is that a differentiation isn't often made between someone who grows grapes and gets it made into wine for them by someone else and calls themselves a winemaker, and someone who has done the training in Oenology and is a Winemaker by Trade without necessarily seeing the need to own a vineyard.
When people I know have grumbled about lack of consistency for price in wines they have been drinking, my answer is to look at who is making them and see if they have done the training which enables them to get a consistent result year in and year out. Irrespective of the price point a good winemaker will always make a decent wine given reasonable starting materials, and even when the materials are unreasonable.
In a future mail-out I will talk about the 2011 Vintage which has been unfairly maligned exactly for the reasons laid out above, where the under-qualified in both vineyard and winery were found out, but where the most competent winemakers forged ahead and now have some unique and great results to show for it.