Written by Al Drinkle
One of the most beautiful things about wine is that it can (and should) be representative of its place of origin. The most rewarding wines are bottled stories of a hallowed setting in a particular growing season and the most articulate grapes can reliably communicate subtle variations in soil-type, aspect, altitude and mesoclimate. Over generations of winegrowing, the virtues of the best sites reveal themselves to their astute custodians and consequently, the tradition of single-vineyard wines has grown out of the desire to isolate compelling originality, if not superior quality.
In many parts of the world, the historical prestige of the best vineyards are codified in an official classification and priced accordingly. So you’ll pay a premium for a bottle from Musigny, Savennières Roche aux Moines or Rüdesheimer Berg Schlossberg, and in the hands of a winegrower with the talent and confidence to let the vineyard speak, you can expect a unique and sublime experience. The unspoken message here is that honing in on a particular area makes for a more interesting wine than one blended from a greater region (the obvious exceptions being single-vineyard wines from shit sites). In the case of excellent parcels of land, it’s a celebration of vinous individuality that would otherwise get lost in a blend.
But on a recent trip, it occurred to me that even when isolating the provender of a small vineyard, perhaps compromises are being made. The myriad dips, ascensions, contours, disparities in altitudes, proximities to coombs and cliffs and other variables would indicate that homogeneity even within some of Europe’s most celebrated vineyards should not be taken for granted. This brings us to the vines themselves. Each one looks different and perhaps each has its own identity. Does each one have a voice that gets lost in the chorus of a single-vineyard wine? My theory is that each vine wants to be an ambassador for the square foot of earth that hosts its root-system and that the single-vineyard tradition is an impediment to what could be an even more succinct expression of individuality.
In pursuing this idea, Metrovino is at the vanguard of a new winegrowing project. We’re working closely with a few of our most valued producers to make a range of single-vine wines. That’s right, single-vine wines. The inaugural release will be a 3-bottle run from a forlorn Chenin Blanc vine in the northeast corner of Domaine Huet’s Clos du Bourg vineyard in Vouvray, right next to the dilapidated old farmhouse. The vine has seen 68 harvests and at some point had the moniker “Stacy” applied to it. Just as Grand Cru wines from Burgundy forego the village name on the label, Clos du Bourg will be taken for granted here and the wine will simply be labelled as “Stacy.” There will also be a single-bottle reserve release called “Stacy Alert” made from a scant botrytis selection.
In Germany’s Mosel valley, winegrower AJ Adam has agreed to contribute the entire production of one of his 80-year-old Riesling vines in the Häs’chen vineyard to our project. We conducted a séance with Bon Scott’s ghost in order to have him consult on the four-bottle production and though some of his ideas were unorthodox (for example, daily bâtonnage with a myrtlewood crucifix), the young wine is showing great promise.
Lastly, Frédéric Burrier of Chateau de Beauregard will be participating in conjunction with Richard Harvey of Harvey-Davidson Wine Co. A pristine Gamay vine named Kevin was selected from the Saint-Roch vineyard in Chiroubles and cooperage François Fréres has been commissioned to craft a 1500 mL barrel from Tronçais oak for the wine to ferment in. The results are so exciting that we’ve decided to bottle this in magnum only (that’s right, there will only be one big bottle of Kevin).
Stay tuned for the release of these special wines; they will be somewhat pricey but everybody knows that exclusivity justifies this even when quality does not.