Bottles of wine from a vine

How many bottles of wine can be made from a single grapevine? Interesting question. This being wine, no simple answer.

You confront an army of variables, and we will get to those, but the simplest bar-bet answer: a single wine vine can produce between two and three bottles of wine.

Now the more complete answer: between one and 24.

At Château d’Yquem, makers of the exquisite premier cru supérieur sauterne, one vine produces one bottle. That is why current vintage prices of Yquem start at $500 a bottle. Since Château d’Yquem is almost ageless, you can pick up a vintage 1831 for around $160,000.

Don’t have that kind of money hiding in the cushions of your sofa? Heavily irrigated, valley floor vineyards using an extravagantly fructiferous grape variety, can get up to 24 bottles from a vine. You can buy that in a supermarket for five dollars, maybe less on Wine Wednesdays. You get what you pay for.

Now to numbers and variables of wine you likely enjoy. The first big variable is the grape variety. Different vines produce different quantities of grapes, and different quantities of grapes result in different qualities of wine. The more prolific the grape, and the more the grower exploits prolificacy, the greater the yield, and—very likely—the lesser the quality.

The age of the vine matters. Younger vines produce more grapes, while older vines produce less. But older vines produce higher quality grapes. In wine, less usually is more.

The next big variable is valley or hillside. Because of drainage and more austere conditions, hillside vineyards produce one-third less grapes than valley floor vineyards. Same time, because of those stresses, hillside vineyards produce higher quality wine. Simple formula—hillside, two bottles of wine per vine, valley three bottles of wine per vine. Hillsides are harder to harvest, too, increasing the cost. Still, you get what you pay for. Steep isn’t cheap, but can be worth it.

In today’s wine world, the sweet spot for quality wine is in the $20-30 range. There is a wealth of good wine in the $14-plus arena, too. The number of bottles a single vine produces is not as important as the quality of the wine the vine and the wine maker delivers. And when it comes to wine there never are simple, straightforward answers.

Last round: What did the zero say to the number eight? Hey, I really like your belt. You earned a belt of wine for enduring that joke.