Vintages where SVDs or reserve wines were not made, but blended into the regular cuvee

The latest Dehlinger mailer notes that for the 2008 vintage, Dehlinger did not bottle any premium pinots, but instead all of those grapes went into the estate pinot. (This is not uncommon; Dehlinger varies considerably from year to year whether they make reserve or vineyard block pinots and syrahs, but it’s just what got me to thinking about this topic.)

You also see this in the Rhone, Montalcino, Piedmont, Champagne and some other regions, where in an average or weaker vintage, some winemakers don’t bottle all or some of their premium or SVD wines, and instead include those into the base or regional blend wine, so as to buoy the quality of the base wine and not to damage the reputation of their premium wines with an inferior product from that vintage.

It’s impossible to generalize about this across wineries, regions and vintages, of course. But I’m curious – as a consumer, what is your general reaction when you hear of this?

Setting aside the worst vintages (e.g. 2002 in Italy and the Rhone), do you tend to be more enthusiastic when you hear that the regular cuvee has benefitted from grapes that would normally go into pricier bottlings, or do you tend to be leery that it reflects a down year overall? Or do you not really care either way when you read of that occurring?

What are some examples of times when you thought you got a particularly great wine or value as a result of this occurring, versus times when you got drawn in by the idea only to be disappointed?

I always love rivers marie sonoma coast, in 09 summa regular and willow creek were declassified into it

also, Karl Lawrence didnt make any 06 reserves so all the juice went into the napa and its good stuff

Jamie did this with the 08 Kutch Sonoma Coast. [welldone.gif]


I’m probably more on the “enthusiastic” side of things especially if it is California wine, since there are rarely any “horrible” years versus Bordeaux, etc… (maybe 2010 from what I’m hearing, but then I hear otherwise as well, but that is for another thread)

Many times we will see a Sonoma Coast Pinot that has some “declassified” SVD juice for whatever reasons and they just tend to be outstanding, benefiting no doubt from the SVD but honestly I’m a big fan of all kinds of blending, be it bordeaux style reds, SVDs into AVAs, “wacky” blends or even just Champagne so I am probably biased.

2006 is a recent case at Produttori del Barbaresco. Here there are some interesting aspects. The decision to blend all 9 crus into the base Barbaresco was made after the first release of the base. So some lots are the original base and others are the blended crus (normally bottled as Riservas). Some folks who have tasted both think that the latter wine is better while others do not.

Another interesting nuance of this case is that 2006 is considered a good year. The winery claims they did this more to reduce the quantity of their single vineyard crus in the market and not because of lower quality.

One example that comes to mind for me is the 1999 Giuseppe Mascarello Monprivato. I scrape together a few bottles of each vintage of that wine, and I made the mistake of taking a 1999 with me to a restaurant a couple of years ago (compounded by not having decanted the wine extensively beforehand). The wine was quite muted and closed, and it only started to reveal the smallest bit of character at the end of the meal.

Later, I was talking to a friend of mine who (as I was fortunate to have done once myself) visited Mascarello over in Piedmont. He said that Mauro was concerned about the development of the 1999 Barolo, because that was a very good vintage but not one in which he made the Ca d’Morisso Riserva, and the inclusion of that selection into the regular Barolo had produced a wine which would require a very long time to approach maturity, even by Barolo standards.

So, owners of the 99 may be rewarded with an exceptional Barolo for the inclusion of those grapes, but it could take longer than one would normally expect in respect of that wine and the 1999 Barolo vintage.

Lots of examples of this in Burgundy. For example, Bizot has a few (three, I think) plots of Echezeaux. They’re serious about their Echezeaux and think that one plot is weaker (Treux), so they declassify that into a Vosne 1er. So for $40ish (not sure what recent vintages go for), you can get weak Echezeaux. Lots of Burg producers do this, whether with young vines (Mugneret-Gibourg’s village Gevrey includes young vines Ruchottes) or because of vintage problems (Pousse d’Or declassified all of their '01 Volnays because of hail). Lots and lots of examples there. Even rumors of DRC selling off younger La Tache.


Brian O’Donnell of Belle Pente did this with a portion of his estate vineyard crop in 2007 and Jay Somers of J. Christopher declassified the entire vintage that year.

I actually gave this a lot of thought when I heard Littorai, Copain, Siduri, etc declassified some of their SVD’s due to smoke damage in 2008. More than anything else, it made me become leery of producers who DID NOT declassify in 2008, even though they share vineyards in the same areas (in some cases sourcing fruit from the very same vineyards) that received smoke damage. I’m only interested in is purchasing from producers who’s actions clearing indicate that they put quality first and foremost in their SVD selections, and I’ve considered dropping of f of a couple mailing lists because of this.