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Dear Dr. Vinny,
Are “block” wines authentic, or is their provenance to be questioned?
—Dr. Jorge S., Lima, Ohio
Dear Dr. S.,
U.S. law doesn’t regulate the use of vineyard “block” designations on wine labels, so if you’re a cynic, you might eye these wines with some suspicion. I don’t know if that’s necessary—most of the time when a winery has a separate “block” bottling, it’s to distinguish that wine from another bottling from the same vineyard. I’ve seen a single winery bottle nearly a dozen different blocks from the same vineyard in a single vintage. While some of these decisions are certainly rooted in marketing, essentially a winery is saying that they believe these wines are all distinctive. They wouldn’t be doing themselves any favors by not backing this claim up.
Keep in mind that designating a block isn’t necessarily a statement about quality, but rather pointing out that it’s a different expression of different parts of a vineyard. Some varietals are thought to be more transparent than others when it comes to expressing terroir, so you’re more likely to see “block” bottlings of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. By dividing a single parcel into smaller pieces, production and availability will also be fractionalized, and prices are likely to go up.
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