Single vineyard vs. multi-vineyard wines

It seems like the highest end offering from many wineries are single vineyard wines (I’m thinking mostly CA here but it could probably also apply to other regions). This got me thinking about whether single vineyard wines are inherently superior to wines that are a blend of multiple vineyards. Clearly single vineyard wines can show the terrior of a particular site the way a multi-vineyard wine can’t, but does that make it necessarily more special or valuable? When high quality single vineyard wines are tasted blind against similarly high quality multi-vineyard wines can the complexities of the terrior of a single site come out and make them more interesting than multi-vineyard wines? Or is a lot of what makes single vineyard wines valuable and special to us the knowledge of knowing it is from a single special place rather than the taste itself?


It depends on the vineyard, and how it is farmed. Some pieces of dirt are much better than other patches of earth for planting vines.

Single vineyard wines also tend to be smaller production, so the whole supply and demand thing…

They also may have more new oak, more expensive packaging (heavier bottles, etched/screen printed labels, special cases), more labor (more blending sessions or extra care taken for SVD-bound barrels) which will all translate to higher price.

But there is a lot of romanticism behind a wine of singular origin. People will pay up for it.

I guess it’s that romanticism aspect that I’m trying to get at. Obviously some vineyards are better than others. But at the very highest levels does it matter to you whether a wine is from a single site or can a blend of multiple vineyards reach the same height in your minds as a wine from a single piece of dirt? And are you willing to pay more for a wine because you know it’s from a single vineyard?

I care about how it tastes. If the better wine is an SV designate then so be it. If it’s a blend, then that is great as well.

I feel the single vineyard wines typically demand a higher price because the terroir and vines have to stand out on their own. There is no mixing grapes from a good vineyard to improve a lesser vineyard. It is good or it isn’t.

With multi vineyard wines you can label it as ‘X and O vineyard blend’. People immediately think ‘Oh, this have the awesome X vineyard in it, it must be good’. It may be good but the winery is simply making use of a lesser grape at a lower cost to make a better wine with the good grapes.

All of that being said, I have no issue buying multi vineyard wines and think some single vineyard are overpriced for what they are. As usually, I buy by the producer, variety, and price. Not necessarily in that order.

Off the top of my head, the best wines tend to be single vineyard wines (with a few minutes of thinking I’m sure I can negate this statement). I also think about Montelena’s Estate. Is it a single vineyard or is it non-contiguous Montelena-owned land?

Edit: Monte Bello is not single vineyard…more examples?

I tend to buy AVA bottlings over SV designate because generally, the increase in price isn’t worth it for me (talking about CA wines). If only I didn’t have this budget…

Some Pinot houses that do SVD have a blended entry level wine that could be quite awesome.

To name just a few.

Personally I see no reason why single vineyard wines should be better than a blend of a number of single vineyard wines.

However that assumes each vineyard has genuine merit (not all have enough to justify a SV bottling) and judicious blending can achieve something more than the sum of it’s parts. Bartolo Mascarello in Barolo is one of the few there that still believes this, and the wine is certainly well-regarded. Penfolds Grange is another example, blended from the best grapes across a huge area of vineyard resources. Their Magill estate is a single vineyard wine but well down the pecking order price-wise.

For some, tasting the subtle differences is important for them. Burgundy enthusiasts may be the most enthusiastic in this pursuit, but there are followers of terroir the world over.

However the quality differences are IMO mostly down to the prioritisation and positioning of single vineyard wines vs other wines in the range. In the vast majority of the ranges, the SV wine gets the pick of the best fruit from that vineyard, with the remainder ‘declassified’ to a standard or reserve bottling. The standard bottling may also include grapes from less prestigious vineyards that don’t carry the caché of the other single vineyards, or perhaps grapes from a vineyard too small to make a SV viable.


The Wind Gap Sonoma Coast wines (Pinot & Syrah) are awesome as well.

I guess like everything here “it depends”. I think in general went a single vineyard wine is made it is because the quality of fruit from that vineyard is higher than most and can stand on its own. In that aspect it can demand a higher price as stated above in addition to that land will probably cost more than other vineyards. But in terms of the wine itself, depends one what you like. You could say when vineyards do this, they also tend to use what they deem are the best barrels for their single vineyard wines so then it is the best of the best. I’ve had wines of the same clone from different vineyards separated by just hundreds of feet that taste totally different. One I would buy, the other I wouldn’t. So on the micro level, yes a single vineyard wine is the only way to taste that particular vineyard in that moment, while a blend could be more representative of an entire AVA. I personally like the blends from a single AVA more than a single vineyard more in general. I find them more balanced.

And are you willing to pay more for a wine because you know it’s from a single vineyard?

David - this is something that comes up fairly regularly. If you want to see some of the arguments, just do a search and maybe a search for “terroir”.

Some places make better wine than other places. Usually it’s because of the exposure, the drainage, the viticulture, and of course, the wine making. But those places don’t necessarily always make better wine than other places every year, exactly for the reasons just mentioned.

More importantly, there’s really no such thing as an objectively defined “better” when it comes to your own taste. If you taste several similar wines side by side and don’t know which is which, you may or may not prefer the single vineyard wine. I recently had this very conversation with some wine people, including some wine makers. One guy insisted that his single vineyard wines were better in that they were different from each other and were the best that could come from those vineyards. But I preferred the blend and so did several other people. Another wine maker just started making a white from a region he hadn’t worked in before. He has two vineyards and blended them. He’s well-known and could easily have sold the single vineyard bottlings for a fair bit of money per bottle. When asked why he didn’t do that, he said, “Because my wine is better”. He’s been making both single and multi-vineyard wines for over forty years, and is confident in his judgement.

You can, if you wish, talk about the story of the place, the rarity of the wine, etc., and many people do and they derive great satisfaction from knowing specific facts about the wine in the glass, including whether it’s from a specific vineyard or not. But those things have little to do with the actual quality of the wine in the glass.

Is Monte Bello not a single vineyard? I always thought it was (or at least that it was a contiguous piece of land). It’s interesting because I don’t think there is a legal definition of what constitutes a single vineyard, although I may be wrong about that. For instance, I believe Mondavi trademarked To Kalon and can technically use it on any wine regardless of vineyard source, and I believe they have added land over the years to what they consider To Kalon (I know that is a hotly debated topic).

Here are a couple of examples of Willamette Valley wineries that make blends that are priced higher than the single vineyard wines.
Patricia Green Cellars- Notorious, from Freedom Hill, Balcombe, Durant, and Olenik.
Penner-Ash- Pas de Nom, from 26% Penner-Ash Estate Vineyard, 26% Shea Vineyard, 17% Zena Crown Vineyard, 17% Bella Vida Vineyard, 9% Hyland Vineyard, 5% Palmer Creek Vineyard. Too bad they can’t think of a name for the wine.

P Hickner

It is according to Ridge, and they should know.

I’d call Monte Bello a single, mostly contiguous estate vineyard divided into distinct sections.

Au Bon Climat Isabelle is usually their most expensive wine, although the Knox Alexander is always better. Nonetheless the Isabelle has achieved lots of acclaim. Isabelle is a blend of their best barrels.

Marketing studies show that consumers pay more as the level of appellation moves up. In other words, they pay more for Lodi than California…more for sub regions of Lodi than Lodi…more for Stag’s Leap or Mt Veeder than just plain Napa…and of course the single vineyard from a prestigious location is what consumers pull out their Black Amex cards for.

Very few winemakers are willing to buck this trend. Sean Thackrey has always acclaimed blends to be better. Champagne is a blend from vineyards all over the region.

I’ve always thought of it as a collection of vineyards (Klein, Torre, Perrone, whatever else there is) and I thought Ridge did, too.

Some of the best wines I’ve ever had were SVD; however, I really like the additional complexity that a blend can deliver. I guess I do enjoy reading the story behind a wine, but when it comes down to it, I drink wine for what’s in the bottle.