Wine 101: Single ‘n’ Swingin’

We love choosing and drinking wine by country because we know what we’re most likely going to get out of a California Chardonnay, or an Argentenian Malbec. But the flavour of a wine really goes more microcosmic than just the country it’s from. It’s comes down to specific vineyards, land plots, soil composition and a dozen other factors that flavour the grapes before they’re even pressed into wine.

One of my favourite tag lines for any vineyard’s wine is “It’s All About The Dirt“, and it’s the solid truth with wine. Depending on whether those grapes are grown in clay, or volcanic rock, or any other variety of soil, the very ground in which it’s grown can be good or bad for specific varietals, and really do play a major part in flavouring the over all finishing product of the wine.

This is where single vineyard wines come in. See a lot of the wine that we drink isn’t necessarily what we would call “estate grown” or “single vineyard“. The bottle could say Sonoma County Chardonnay from California, but that doesn’t mean all the grapes are grown at the vineyard listed on the bottle. That means the wine is produced by the vineyard listed on the bottle and a lot of the time the grapes are outsourced from other vineyards in the Sonoma County area. Does this really matter? Well, not really. They’re going to obviously make a delicious Sonoma County Chardonnay, but as mentioned before, soil plays a big part in flavouring the wine.

There have been battle royales and law suits in France regarding a single acre of land. France has a very strict hierchy of wine, and your grapes coming from a few feet this way or that way could mean being on the top of the food chain, having more prestige, being able to charge more for your wines. The soil really does make a difference acre by acre, foot by foot when you get technical. If we’re outsourcing grapes from different vineyards and blending them together, we don’t get a true sense of what the land has to offer.

I got to try two single vineyard Zinfandels from Ravenswood. You may recognize the name Ravenswood Zinfandel, but like most at that price point, the grapes are blended from different vineyards in the surrounding area. But, go on their website and you’ll see a list of seven different single vineyard Zinfandels they produce. Most of these Zin’s are from plots of land only 15-40 acres big, the smallest one being from a plot of land just 4 acres! In wine terms, 4 acres is an extremely small vineyard. They all have their names on them, Dickerson, Old Hill, Pickberry, all with the pride that they can hold their heads up high, and get people to taste what their specific plot of land has to offer.

I tried two last night: Barricia, and Taldeschi. Barricia is from the Sonoma Valley area, and Taldeschi is from the Dry Creek area, both on opposite ends of each other. The Barricia was like fresh berry pie, jammy blueberries and cherries, lots of baking spice, ginger, cinnamon, but earthy. Not sweet, not a fruit bomb, but well incorporated, and SMOOTH as hell on the palate. It had a slight grip, but all in all was like a silky Zinfandel dream. The Taldeschi was darker, more serious, currants and black cherries, with lots of tabacco and earth on the nose and palate. The oak came out a little more with a good helping of vanilla, making the overall structure of the wine heavier and blacker and ridiculously addictive.

Same producers, Ravenswood, but different vineyards, different grapes, different soil. Sure you can get any wine from any vineyard that tastes good, but sometimes it’s fun to see what a really specific area of the world has to offer, because like everything we eat and drink, “It’s All About The Dirt”.