In one of my earlier blog entries, James Molesworth asked the following questions:
You're big on the single-vineyard thing. Do you do microvinifications from vineyard blocks for a few years before deciding if the vineyard is worthy of being bottled alone?
Have you ever stopped bottling a vineyard separately after a few years for any qualitative reason?
The answer to both questions is no. Well, at least a qualified no. Let’s examine the first question. In essence, we do what James asks, but without the waiting period. We keep all of the wine from the various vineyards separate in the winery. Since we taste all the barrels throughout the year, we actually evaluate each vineyard each year.
As for the second question, we’ve never decided to not bottle the wine from one of our vineyards, either in one year or after several years. So far we’ve always felt the wines were “worthy.” Maybe we’ve been extremely lucky in our vineyard choices, but so far so good.
The real question I think James was inferring is: What makes a vineyard worthy of a single-vineyard designation? I hope I haven’t put words in James’ mouth, but let’s assume I’m right and go from there because that is an interesting question.
Personally, I feel that every vineyard has the right to be vineyard-designated. I know, that’s a bold statement. Most of you are probably under the impression that a single-vineyard wine should be exceptionally great wine, but I disagree. Firstly, who’s to decide if the wine is great or not? Who sits on that panel? What vineyard owner or winery would ever abdicate that power to someone else? I certainly wouldn’t. Not even to someone as distinguished and accomplished as James Molesworth. :-)
When discussing this issue, I like to bring up a point that no one has ever countered: If you say a vineyard has to develop some track record or meet some standard of quality before it can be vineyard-designated, what do you do about estate wines? Do you tell a winery that produces wine from their own vineyard that they can’t label it as coming from their vineyard? Or worse yet, that they have to blend it with a neighbor’s vineyard for the first few years? If you can’t say yes to those questions, then you can’t place any limit on single-vineyard wines.
Since I’m a smartass (I’m told it’s better than being a dumbass), I might ask: Would you wait three years before naming your kids? Maybe you could just call them “kid” for the first few years, until they distinguish themselves, and then give them a name. Or never give them a name if they’re just average.
Probably not a perfect analogy, but just like kids, I think every vineyard should be given the chance to stand on its own. A chance to make its own identity. After that, only time and the buying public will decide if the vineyard is ultimately worthy.