There are an increasing number of single-vineyard wines for sale these days. Are they better quality than blends?
The best bottles from Germany and Burgundy can take credit for the interest in single-vineyard or vineyard-designated wines coming to market around the world.
For generations, winemakers working in say, the Goldtropfchen vineyard in the Mosel or Corton in Burgundy, have made wines that stand apart from others made in the same villages or regions. These can smell and taste different from wines crafted with grapes grown only a few metres away.
In such instances, the name of the vineyard on a label is a sign to consumers that the wine is noteworthy and of higher quality. There’s something unique about the exact combination of grape variety, soil conditions, topography, climate and human interest that makes for wines celebrated by connoisseurs and collectors. All of the physical conditions and human effort combine in what the French and passionate wine folks call terroir.
These famous vineyards have inspired vintners working across the globe to look for the sites in their own backyard that can make wines with a sense of place. Where are the plots or parcels that can be counted on to yield superior grapes each year?
A single-vineyard red, white or sparkling wine means the grapes used in its production came from one particular vineyard. Depending on its location and owner, the vineyard in question might be a matter of a few rows of grapes or cover 2,000-plus hectares as is the case for San Bernabe ranch in Monterey, one of the largest contiguous vineyards in California. It could be a release of a single barrel of wine, roughly 300 bottles, or much, much larger volumes.
The care and consideration to single out a special section of a vineyard or uniquely expressive barrels in the cellar means that more time and attention has been spent. All of that winemaking TLC typically results in a higher-quality wine.
Cynics may say that vineyard designations have more to do with marketing than winemaking. They’re window dressing that draws attention to a brand, but don’t always equate to a higher standard. The same holds for marketing any product.
But as winemakers share their stories with consumers who want something distinctive and authentic, you can expect to see more wines making a virtue of where they were grown. That origin story and limited availability will help create demand.