Despite the historical importance of blending wine, especially in Bordeaux, and the current popularity of red blends on the supermarket shelves, increasingly among the wine cognoscenti, wines from a single vineyard, a single block, a single clone, even a single barrel are popular. Winemakers today are less inclined to show off their blending expertise and would rather showcase the distinctive characteristics of a single source, especially the vineyard, unsullied by outside influence.
Is this a fad or a more or less permanent trend? It’s hard to say. No doubt the wine world is fraught with style changes—witness the reduced use of oak in Chardonnay or lower alcohol levels in Cabernet in recent years. It may be that we will tire of the whole fascination with the vineyard and return to the idea of the winemaker as the mad mixer of many influences creating a whole larger than the sum of its parts.
But, on the other hand, perhaps what we have discovered is that nature, once set in the proper direction, can produce greater differentiation on its own. Perhaps we get more differences by letting the ensemble of environmental effects take their own course rather than trying to direct them through conscious intent. If so, the current fascination with single vineyard wines will only accelerate.
In the end it’s about creating difference and nature may be more creative than we think.