Why They Matter
For one, the politics within cooperative wineries can be intense. Not all vineyards within a community are equal, and winegrowing families often have varying viticultural practices, some of which have been passed down from generation to generation. (Try telling a winegrower that the way his or her parents were doing it was wrong). Then, decisions in the winery — everything from fermentation vessel to aging regime to labeling — have ramifications beyond just the winery. That's because co-op wineries carry the name of the community. The winery's reputation can become the community's reputation. (No pressure).
Keeping the community of winegrowers happy while producing a quality product is a tightrope act to say the very least. It is a big reason why many co-ops have a poor reputation — they allow economic and political considerations drive their decisions, and aim for volume rather than quality.
So if a wine shows up on Opening a Bottle from a cooperative winery, I'd like to tip my cap to them for threading this needle and creating a wine that is noteworthy. To make the Essential Winemakers list deserves a standing ovation. So yes, this icon does celebrate cooperation.