The idea behind a gravity flow winery is to reduce the number of times the wine must be stressed by pumping or pushing. By building in steps the wine “free flows” to its next destination rather than pumping.
Generally the building is designed to be built into a hill or the earth with the crush pad near the top of the building; building levels are then stepped to take advantage of gravity through each stage of the winemaking process. If held to strictly, the bottling line is positioned at the bottom of the building with case storage on the dame level.
First popularized in Europe over the course of many centuries, it has only recently begun to make a comeback here in the U.S., in part because of the upfront expenses involved.
Using gravity flow is not an all or nothing process. Some wineries use pumps sparingly and do most of their wine movement by gravity flow. Some winemakers believe limited pumping improves the cohesiveness of the flavor profile.
Examples of gravity flow wineries in Virginia include Early Mountain and Rosemont of Virginia among others.