Quality in relation to yields


You often write about yields. Do yields have an immediate relationship with quality? Can you be specific?

Thanks and cheers.

Hey Evan

Just got home. Nice to be back in sunny Tuscany!

It’s hard to generalize. But I like the idea of one kilo or less per vine regardless of density. This said I am amazed with the quality of some vineyards with much higher yields.

What do you think?

I think I still have much to learn in relation to this subject!

I write primarily about Finger Lakes wines, and for years it has been clear that yields were too high. So, generally, the call for lower yields was understandable here. But now that growing habits have improved, there is more discussion over balanced vines, as opposed to vines that are cropped extremely low in relation to yields.

Probably more than any other critic, Mr. Parker raves about “miniscule yields” without explaining why that’s necessarily a good thing. Vines change as they grow older and balance changes with it, but I’ve talked to growers who think tiny yields can impart undesirable green notes just like overcropped vines will.

Maybe a better question is, “When you hear the phrase ‘low yields,’ what do you associate with that?”

Don’t want to hijack Jame’s thread but as has been mentioned before, “low” in relation to what? The correct question is not how many tons for a given acre, but how many grapes can be brought to perfect maturity and ripeness. Leaving out the political considerations that give us maximum permitted yields, the answer to the question above is dependent on the soil, drainage, sunlight, canopy, row orientation, density, training system, water levels, ground cover, and vintage, among other things. If you have conditions that will enable you to ripen 5 tons per hectare to perfection this year, it seems kind of dumb to dump most of it in a green harvest because regulations only permit 2 and because two years ago you couldn’t even get that.

But I’m curious to see the answer.

I think you hit it on the head. There are so many factors to take under consideration,
there isn’t a “right” answer. In certain years where there are heat spikes around harvest a slightly higher yield could slow down prouction of sugar and allow the fruit to hang a littlelonger until the desired flavors and acid balance is achieved.

John -

I brought this up because I think often critics drop in a line about “low yields” as if that is an automatic indicator of (take your pick: higher concentration, better quality, more care, etc). It’s a subject that is often misunderstood - me included! - and I’d like to see critics put it in context more often.

It’s a complex issue. Low yields do not always produce the best wine. There is a point when yields are too low and the quality improvement is not reflected in the wine. I remember a long discussion about this years ago with Lalou Bize-Leroy. Makes sense.