The original garage wine is Château Le Pin, and its grapes grow on a tiny, 5 acre plot in Pomerol, which is near Saint Emilion in Bordeaux, France. The first vintage, from 1981, was so astonishingly good that other winemakers soon followed suit to create their own 'boutique wines' (as small wine batches were originally called).
Since most of these operations were housed in relatively modest accommodations - the Le Pin wine cellar is in the basement of an old farmhouse. The limited production of Château Le Pin ranges from 500-600 cases per year - the French writer Nicholas Baby came up with the name 'vins de garage' and called the vintners 'garagistes'.
This is wine "Haute Couture", says Michel Rolland, internationally acclaimed wine consultant and advocate of garage wines, who orchestrated their expansion into the global market.
The first wine to become famous under the name garage wine was Château Valandraud from St. Emilion (1.5ha). The name is explained by the fact that because of a lack of a dedicated cellar and the microscopic volume, the wine was made in a garage.
Usually the operation involves a tiny plot, seldom in excess of 2-4ha. With this scale, the vintner works as a gardener, sometimes taking care of vines as if they were pot plants. Low yields, about 20hl from a hectare instead of the standard 50hl. A straightforward recipe; it does, however, require backbreaking labour and almost surgical precision. They make the vine work: as early as July they bring in a green crop, with three-quarters of the bunches removed; following this, they cut the leaves first from the eastern side and then, prior to harvest, all the remaining leaves to achieve maximum exposure to the sun. The harvesting is done by hand, in a very short space of time (one day) and in only the best weather.
Vinification in a garage, or micro-winemaking, is high-precision, intricate work which produces highly concentrated, sophisticated, amazing wines, which so far have no history of their own, with their future behaviour hard to predict.