By LAURA BURGESS | VINE PAIR Feb 21, 2017
One of the most popular ideas in wine is that low-yielding vines — which produce a tiny amount of grapes instead of a bumper crop — make better wines.
For centuries, this myth has slowly permeated the industry, infiltrating tasting rooms and Wine Spectator, and even wine labels.
This argument for fewer grapes rests largely on the belief that vines produce a finite amount of grapes over their lifetime, and producing fewer berries each vintage makes those grapes more concentrated and flavorful.
As a result, those more flavorful grapes will produce “better,” more flavorful wines. It is an idea as old as at least the ancient Greeks. In his book Terroir and Other Myths of Winegrowing, UC Davis viticulture professor Mark A. Matthews credits Virgil as a source. “Bacchus loves open hillsides,” Virgil wrote, meaning grapes prefer the less fertile hillsides — where they produce fewer grapes — to valley floors, where the yield is more plentiful. Even famed wine critic Jancis Robinson quotes Virgil in The Oxford Companion to Wine, noting that the ancient Greeks knew that less fertile soils and lower yields were better for grape cultivation.
But this, my friends, is an alternative fact. Quite simply, there’s no universal magic formula for growing the perfect grapevine and making “great” wine. Both high and low yields can make great wine, especially because “great” depends on your taste preferences. The idea that low-yield grapes always — and only — produce better wines is simply a myth.