I worked in Napa last week and drove past some of the most well known vineyards loaded with fruit almost ready for harvest. I also drove past vineyards south of the city of Napa that appear to be setup for machine harvesting and are across the road from a lumberyard and tool rental place. This got me thinking about the differences in wines and what separates great wine from just well made, clean wine.
How much of this difference is due to the decisions of winemakers in the cellar and how much is due to the vineyard practices and place they are grown?
Terroir has long been part of the mythology of wine marketing. But is there really a difference between Cabernet grown at Martha’s Vineyard and the vineyards in American Canyon? Would we be able to taste the difference if both vineyards were made into wine by Heidi Barrett?
From my experience I’d say yes, but it would be interesting to see what some of the best winemakers would make from more humbly grown grapes. Alas, I don’t ever think we will see this in reality but it’s interesting to see what folks like August Briggs are doing at Castle Rock and his eponymous winery.
In the end, place matters but how much is open for debate. As with all luxury goods, scarcity and reputation drives wine prices but quality can be another story altogether.