What's the difference between an estate wine and a single-vineyard wine?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

What is the difference between an estate and a single-vineyard wine?

—Mike B., San Diego

Dear Mike,

An estate wine can come from many vineyards, as long as all are owned or controlled by the "estate" winery, while a single-vineyard wine may be made from a vineyard that's not owned by the winery that bottles it. A wine can be both estate-bottled and meet the criteria for a single-vineyard designation.

An estate-bottled wine is made entirely from grapes owned by the winery, and the wine is made entirely on the winery's property—it doesn't ever leave the property during fermentation, aging, or bottling. The winery and vineyards don't have to be contiguous, but they have to be located in the same appellation. In the U.S., the "estate" term has been expanded to include not only vineyards owned by a wine label, but also ones that are managed or controlled by the winery, even if they're actually owned by someone else.

To list a vineyard or ranch on a label, laws vary slightly, but the grapes must come entirely (or nearly entirely—U.S. law is 95 percent) from that single property. There are no rules governing which vineyards qualify for designation on a label; that's up to the winery. And many wineries produce wines from vineyards they neither own nor control; these could be single-vineyard wines, but they couldn't be estate wines.

—Dr. Vinny

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