Drink Picks

Looking to Field Blends as the Ultimate Expression of Terroir

For Portland, Oregon, sommelier and restaurateur Kelsey Glasser, field blends from around the world tell the story of one unique vineyard in a more sustainable way

Bottles of field wines
From left to right: Marcel Deiss ‘Complantation’ (photo courtesy of Skurnik Wines & Spirits); Sean Thackrey ‘Orion—Rossi Vineyard’ (photo courtesy of Pleiades Wine Company); Casa de Mouraz Dão Branco (photo courtesy of Savio Soares Selections); and Casa de Mouraz Dão Tinto (photo courtesy of Savio Soares Selections)
image description

Recommended by

Kelsey Glasser, owner and sommelier,

Arden, Portland, Oregon

Most American consumers have a grape variety-first approach to understanding and purchasing wine, and even in Old World wine regions like Chianti and Chablis, which tend not to state their grape on the label, producers are accustomed to working with single-variety vineyard plots. But historically, this was not the case. 

“When winemaking was a common practice amongst peasant populations centuries and millennia ago, and knowledge of viticulture, pests, and diseases was low,” says Kelsey Glasser, the owner and sommelier of Arden in Portland, Oregon, “it was a safer bet to have lots of different varieties planted in your vineyard.”

Despite being planted to many different vine varieties, both red and white, each vineyard was harvested in one pass and the grapes were vinified together. The resulting wines were—and are—known as field blends, wines defined more by place than grape. “I love field blends as a different lens through which to view terroir,” says Glasser. “People think of terroir-driven wines as those focusing on a single variety, but terroir, at its core, is merely the expression of a single place through a single wine.”

Though some regions—such as the Douro in Portugal and Vienna in Austria, which has a specific designation for field blends called Wiener Gemischter Satz—have carried on their histories of field-blend production more than others, vintners in other parts of the world are reviving the practice. Glasser points to vintners like Nate Ready, the co-owner and winemaker of Hiyu Wine Farm in Oregon, who are going so far as to plant new vineyards with a wild array of varieties; Hiyu now is now home to over 100 different varieties and clones and uses them to craft a number of field blends.

Selling Points for Field Blends

  • Though consumers may be used to ordering wines according to their grape, or asking what the grape is in a certain wine, field blends offer a new perspective to introduce. “They still tell the story of one unique vineyard, just through the kaleidoscope of many different grape varieties,” says Glasser. 
  • Glasser points to the unique and interesting aroma and flavor profiles of these wines, “accomplished by wide arrays of varieties that guests have probably never had in combination with one another.”
  • “Field blends increase diversity in a vineyard, which is one of the tenants of regenerative agriculture,” says Glasser, “so for guests who value sustainability and a more holistic approach to winemaking, field blends are an incredible way to support this.”

4 Field Blend Wines to Watch

  • Marcel Deiss ‘Complantation,’ Alsace, France: Composed of all 13 varieties allowed in the Alsace AOC, Marcel Deiss’ ‘Complantation’ carries on Alsace’s field-blend tradition. While varietal wines are now most common in Alsace, the region has a tradition of producing field blends known as Edelzwicker.
  • Sean Thackrey ‘Orion—Rossi Vineyard,’ Napa Valley, California: The late Sean Thackrey’s legacy of field blends lives on through the work of his team at Pleiades Wine Company. “Thackrey loved to utilize old California vineyards, many of them own-rooted, with mysterious varieties that he himself couldn’t even identify,” says Glasser. Nobody really knows what’s in this “full, spicy blend,” though Syrah and Petite Sirah are two of the varieties present.
  • Casa de Mouraz Dão Branco and Dão Tinto, Portugal: In Portugal, where the field-blend tradition remains strong, Casa de Mouraz crafts both a white and a red field blend cuvée, using biodynamically farmed old vines. “Antonio Lopez Ribeiro’s Casa de Mouraz blends contain over 12 different grapes and are affordable, lean, mineral-driven examples of this ancient technique,” says Glasser.

Search Field Wines on Provi

Courtney Schiessl Magrini is the editor-in-chief for SevenFifty Daily and the Beverage Media Group publications. Based in Brooklyn, she has held sommelier positions at some of New York’s top restaurants, including Marta, Dirty French, and Terroir, and her work has appeared in Wine Enthusiast, GuildSomm, Forbes.com, VinePair, EatingWell Magazine, and more. She holds the WSET Diploma in Wines. Follow her on Instagram at @takeittocourt.

Most Recent