A winemaker fortunate enough to have a vineyard within a prestige appellation is entitled to the cachet the name conveys and earns a correspondingly high price for his wine. Another, whose property may be right next door but in different, more ordinary appellation, enjoys neither the cachet nor the higher price - despite the fact that he may use the same blend of grapes and vinify them in a similarly conscientious way. In making these distinctions the rulemakers aren’t off base. They’re only paying homage to what might be called winemaking’s founding principle: Place matters and all places are not created equal.
Savvy wine buyers know this, of course, but they know something more. While all places are not created equal, some are distinctly more equal than others. Producers of prestige wines often own plots of ground in lesser appellations. Thus, a winemaker renowned for his $80 Chateauneuf-du-Pape may also make a $20 Cotes-du-Rhone and a Burgundy house with grand cru property in Clos de Vougeot will likely also make simple village-level wines. While working-class vines can’t achieve the finesse or complexity of their elite counterparts the family resemblance alone can make them worth seeking out. When the resemblance is marked and the price right, you’ve got real value. Call it shopping one tier down.