Are Single-Site Expressions the Future, or just a Fad?

Is Chardonnay "cool" again? Was Jura just a fad? Is natural wine the future? In the fickle world of wine, what trends matter and what is just noise?
Illustration by Canarypix / Alamy

The worlds of fashion and wine have a lot in common. Ownerships are intertwined, similar descriptors are used and both undergo constant change.

Shawl lapels appear on tuxes one awards season and are gone the next, just as hemlines rise and dip. And as fast as those things happen, Moscato soars and dives, replaced by Prosecco. Wine has become as much about fashion as, well, fashion.

Many of the same Napa Valley producers who made malnourished, “food-friendly” Cabernets during the 1980s went on to make overripe beasts within a decade or two. The wines still haven’t shrunk back down to 12.5% abv and pH levels of 3.5, but the fickle pendulum of style is moving back in that direction.

Remember the trendy “ABC” (Anything But Chardonnay) movement? It’s over. While American consumers have more diverse tastes than ever, Chardonnay is cool again. But big, buttery Chardonnay? As uncool as Uggs.

With the explosion of social media, the turnover in these trends has been accelerated and globalized. Those wines from the Jura made Instagram darlings by New York City sommeliers two years ago were all the rage last year in Melbourne, Australia, and are already fading in popularity there, replaced by local versions of natural wines.

Wine trends aren’t limited to the popularity of particular grape varieties, regions or winemaking techniques, like the current infatuation with whole-cluster ferments in some circles, or the use of concrete eggs in others. Jean-­Guillaume Prats, who oversees LVMH’s wine businesses, says that what he calls the Burgundian approach has become “a trend all over the world.”

What he’s referring to is the emphasis on single vineyards and away from the Bordeaux norm of a single, blended wine. Even in regions where blending has long been the practice, producers increasingly select fruit from specific plots and bottle the resulting wines on their own.

Besides the ubiquitous examples of single-vineyard Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs from Burgundy and the New World, readers can find many examples of these wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, or from regions as diverse as Bierzo, in Spain, Barolo, in Italy, and Châteauneuf-du-Pape, in France.

In the process, winemakers find themselves doing less, as blending options become much more limited. The goal is to let the vineyard speak, to have its voice be transmitted by the wine as clearly as possible. It’s a reflection of broad societal trends surrounding sourcing and authenticity, and it shows no sign of letting up.

Why Syrah is Better than Cabernet

Single-Site Expression Recommendations

These commendable wines all come from a single vineyard or plot that used to be part of a larger bottling.

Clos Saint Jean 2015 La Combe des Fous (Châteauneuf-du-Pape); $130. From the stony La Crau subregion, this full-bodied wine has been bottled on its own since 2003.

Descendientes de Jose Palacios 2010 La Faraona (Bierzo); $700. Formerly part of the already small Corullón bottling; average annual production is a mere 65 cases.

Mulderbosch 2015 Block A Chenin Blanc (Stellenbosch); $40. Since 2013, Blocks W and S2 also have been bottled separately instead of blending them into the winery’s Steen Op Hout Chenin Blanc.

Newton 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon (Spring Mountain District); $190. Spicy and savory, with fine tannins and length, this used to be part of Newton’s high-end Puzzle bottling.

Paolo Scavino 2012 Monvigliero (Barolo); $67. Wine from this limestone-studded cru was blended into Scavino’s regular Barolo bottling until 2007.

Managing Editor Joe Czerwinski discovered single-vineyard California Pinot Noirs in the mid- to late-1990s, became overwhelmed with the number of options and dropped off those mailing lists. What’s next?

 

Published on April 26, 2017
Topics: Wine Trends
About the Author
Joe Czerwinski

Czerwinski has been a wine journalist, editor and taster for over a decade and is a regular wine panelist, speaker and educator for events and organizations worldwide.




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