I was perusing the wines of an upscale wine shop in my community and couldn't help but overhear a conversation a wholesale salesperson was having with the shop's wine buyer. His mission was to sell a particular merlot, whose name I did not catch. While they both sipped the wine, the salesperson said, "It is made from property right next to Duckhorn's Three Palms vineyard. You know, the one that got Wine Spectator's number one wine of the year award?"
I was amused. Chances are he never pointed that out before the award was granted earlier this year. But, being a good salesperson, he was gong to use whatever trick he could to sell this merlot. And Duckhorn's newfound fame had coattails to ride.
Does proximity make a difference? If a particular vineyard makes a great wine, does that mean the one adjacent to it do just as well? I mean, how different could the soil be?
It could be a lot different. One vineyard could be on a slope and the other at the bottom of a hill where the soil is very different. They could have different sun exposures and micro-climates. Even beyond the weather and soil, a winemaker has great influence over a wine's character. The path from crush to bottle is often winding and how a winemaker uses the techniques available to him trumps terroir.
For centuries, Bordeaux and Burgundy producers have tried to ride the fame of their prestigious neighbors, but wise buyers know there is more to making a good wine than having a good neighbor.