Filed Under:Agent Broker, Commercial Business

5 questions agents must ask when writing winery and vineyard insurance

Wine-making exposes the winery and vineyard owner to a range of risks. (Shutterstock/deyan georgiev)
Wine-making exposes the winery and vineyard owner to a range of risks. (Shutterstock/deyan georgiev)

Wineries offer a relaxing setting for friends to gather to learn about and sample locally made varieties of wine. This enjoyable pastime seems harmless enough, but the process of wine-making exposes winery and vineyard owners to a range of risks, from vine to table.

The experts at Travelers Agribusiness Division encourage agents to ask these five questions before writing winery and vineyard coverage:

1. Does the winery have processes in place to manage customers who have too much to drink?

While enjoying friendly conversation and samples of wine, customers might not realize that they have had too much to drink. Therefore, agents should confirm that the winery has safeguards in place to help protect patrons, employees and property. Measures may include:

  • Training for the winery staff to identify customers who appear intoxicated and to stop serving them immediately. Training programs are available for establishments that serve alcohol.
  • The staff should document the occurrence, noting the date and time.
  • The winery should have a plan to get an intoxicated customer home safely, such as confirming that the person has a designated driver, or if not, calling a cab to drive the customer home.



2. Where is the public allowed to gather on the winery or vineyard property?

Many wineries and vineyards allow visitors to tour the grape fields and enjoy outside and inside seating areas. These measures will help keep customers safe as they enjoy their surroundings:

  • Employees should be trained to spot and address possible hazards inside the winery and on the grounds.
  • Unsupervised visitors should not be allowed in the production facilities or other areas that typically are closed to the public.
  • The grounds should have suitable parking areas to enable easy and safe traffic flow in and out of the property.
  • The winery or vineyard should have a response plan, in the event someone is injured on the premises.



3. What types of events are held at the winery?

Wineries and vineyards often host a variety of events, ranging from smaller wine-tastings, to large wine club parties, group dinners, and even weddings. Each event carries its own risks and exposures, therefore:

  • The insurance agent should determine what events are held on the property and offer the right insurance products that effectively respond to these exposures.
  • Customers renting out the winery facilities should have their own event insurance, to cover costs if the event is cancelled. Most wineries will require an upfront, nonrefundable payment for the facilities, in case the event is cancelled because of circumstances beyond the winery’s control.
  • Many wineries hire vendors for catering and other services. Wineries should request certificates of insurance and additional insured status from all vendors associated with the event.
  • Vendors that provide alcohol should have liquor liability coverage. Wineries should enforce a policy of always using a contract that has been reviewed by an attorney.


(Shutterstock/christian delbert)


4. Does the winery or vineyard use third-party storage facilities?

Storage facilities play a key role in the operations of a winery and vineyard. Before writing risks that use third-party storage facilities, agents should confirm that the facility is well-managed, with robust processes to protect its inventory. An agent’s checklist should include:

  • Height of storage shelves
  • Fire risks and precautions
  • Backup power or air vents, in the event of a power outage
  • Security system or other means of safeguarding against theft
  • Experience in full logistics management
  • Process for checking identification of the pick-up/delivery personnel
  • Properly vetted and trained drivers
  • Clean, well-maintained trucks that meet specialized requirements, such as climate control.

(Shutterstock/Maria Uspenskaya) 


5. What exposures put the winery’s or vineyard’s property at risk?

Extreme weather, natural disasters and other threats pose enormous risks to grapes, trellises, equipment and other property. While these events often cannot be predicted, agents should consider several factors when writing vineyard coverage:

  • Weather patterns and trends, including heat waves, droughts, heavy rain and flooding, lightning and hail, freezing temperatures and snow
  • Potential for wildfires, insect infestation and plant diseases
  • The vineyard’s proximity to the road, driveway or parking lot: Vines that grow too close to these areas could be damaged or destroyed by motorists.
  • Equipment and other measures to safeguard against wine contamination and leakage.

It is also recommended that wineries have a written business continuity plan in place that includes identifying threats or risks to the business; conducting a business impact analysis of those risks; adopting controls for prevention and mitigation; and testing the plan regularly.

Wineries and vineyards have unique protection requirements to reap bountiful harvests and offer a safe and friendly wine-tasting experience. Agents who ask the right questions will better understand their customers’ needs and provide the best coverage solutions.

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