Can't make a complex wine with only 2 tons

I was at an extension course in January where a famous Napa winemaker uttered the following statement: “I split the fermentation up into 4 because I wanted a complex wine, which is hard to do with only 2 tons.”
I’ve been ruminating over it for the past 3 months for many reasons, not the least of which is that I began my wine business around small 1 -2 ton fermentations which get bottled individually!

Maybe I take her point that using 4 different yeasts will make 4 different wines, but can’t a single fermentation be a stand out for quality which can only be diluted through blending?

The WM could have handled each tank a bit differently but it really depends on the varietal. Could experiment with stem inclusions, fermentation profiles, commercial yeast/native yeast, free run vs different press cuts, etc. She could probably get about 4-5 barrels out of that plus some breakdown for topping which gives you various wood to play with. Could even pick the 2 tons by row and get some different levels of phonological ripeness. There’s really a lot you can play around with.

Hahaha. Sound like a typical Napa Cab producer. Late pick and meticulously sort to achieve uniform ripeness and so forth, then complain how difficult it is to make a complex wine.

So, everything Robert said above. Plus things like a field blend. Also, site matters. A lot. A site that doesn’t have much to say will take more effort. With a truly great site, you can get a wonderful, complex wine with a very small batch. (And, many world-famous sites have stood above rather bad winemaking.)

Benjamin - There are many “select” wines that are small fermentations…1 barrel maybe 2 maybe 3. Quality and complexity are there. Too many false dogmas and preconceived notions passed on in both grape farming and winemaking. Keep doing your thing.

That’s for the insights- and encouragement! I know her a little bit and I asked her afterward to clarify a little, she said she learned that complexity arose from blending different fermentation while making Dulce at Far Niente.

I suspect that 4 fermentations on 2 tons of grapes is difficult because she is setup for larger lots. If you’re setup for 1/2 ton lots then I don’t see an issue. Personally, I believe complexity would be better gained by having blending partners rather than using the exact same fruit, four different ways. Yeast differences are greatly imagined IMO. Fermentation kinetics are probably a larger factor and while that is influenced by yeasts, you can influence other factors to change things up.

OK, I’ll play. 2 tons of same fruit? Or same vineyard, different clones, half ton each? Or 2 clones of ton each, going to 5 different barrels?

Of course, you can. Just depends on how much effort you’d like to invest. Even with 2 tons of same fruit. Yeast can, and does make a difference, sorry to disagree. Barrels do make a difference. 2 tons is ~5 barrels, plenty of dialing in right there.

And to play a devil’s advocate. I’ve often come across a singular barrel, one clone, one barrel to make it clear. And wanted that particular barrel bottled as is, precisely because of the complexity and nuance one clone and one particular barrel were able to deliver.

The key, of course, is to start with great fruit, to begin with.

In answer to the OP’s post:

Bullshit. Based on real data.