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Friday, October 21, 2011

Vineyard Designated Wines

American wine is labeled with the location, or appellation, of the grapes.  It breaks down like this, from largest area to smallest (with examples):

State (California), county (Sonoma), gov't recognized appellation (Sonoma Valley), then finally vineyard (Monte Rosso).

Vineyard designated, or single vineyard wines, are in the premium range and are all the rage.  This is probably because terroir got to be such a trendy topic in the wine world. Terroir = characteristics of the land, soil, geography, and climate, that give a wine it's distinctiveness.

Are wines from a specific vineyard better?   No

Are vineyard designated wine more expensive?  Yes

Now that some readers will think I'm full of it, let's first address the fallacy of single vineyard wines being better than others.  By saying "No, they are not (necessarily) better" I mean there is nothing about a single vineyard wine in itself that inherently makes it a better wine.  It may be more interesting because it's from a specific location. The vineyard manager and winemaker may have taken better care of the vines because they're going for a top notch wine. Often only vineyards that can produce the best are used for single vineyard wines.  That may all be true. Or it may not.  It's about as risky as buying a more expensive wine because it says "Reserve" on the label.

One problem with single vineyard wines is year-to-year variability that you don't see if you're blending from a larger region.

Some vineyards get a reputation for producing great wines just as some wineries, winemakers, or certain vintage years do.

Which is better? The one that's from a
single vineyard or the one that just says Sonoma County?
But the Sonoma County one is Old Vines. Hmm.

And about the price. You can pretty much expect to pay more for single vineyard wines.  Why is that?  If it truly is a better wine because more care went into the vines and grapes then I can see why. But just because it's from one vineyard instead of two or three or more isn't logical, but consumers believe it to be true.

You will usually pay less for a wine labeled with a very large area, such as California, vs. one labeled with a very small area where all the wine comes from one vineyard. It's just the way it is probably because this works with Old World wines.

Estate wines mean a winery controls the whole process from vine to bottle. These also tend to cost more but I think it's easier to believe an estate wine could actually be better if the winery has high standards.