So let’s first start with the obvious question: What is a wine blend?
There are two different types. We’re going to cover the first one, but I would be completely remiss not to mention the second one:
1) Blends of different varietals (types of grapes) within the same bottle of wine. For example, a combo of Cabernet Sauvignon with Merlot.
2) Blends of vintages (years) of the same varietal. For example, a bottle of Champagne could be a blend of the same grape harvested in different years (old vs. young). This is most common in sparkling wine and ports which is why we’re not going to spend too much time on it.
We’re discussing #1 because I have found it amusing when speaking to someone about wine blends and they either snub them OR they’re intimidated by them.
The reason why it makes me giggle when people snub them is because the most famous and well respected wines in world are blends such as french Bordeaux and Côte-Rôtie (just to name a couple). Bordeaux is always a blend of up to 4 grapes and Côte-Rôtie can actually be a blend of a red AND a white such as a Syrah/Viognier combo (damn that sounds gooood).
So then the next question might be: Well, WHY?
To make it short and sweet: Because layering grapes in a wine is no different than layering your outfits (the ladies will definitely understand this analogy). A black dress can be cool, but a black dress with a red belt, scarf, fabulous handbag and Jimmy Choo shoes ROCKS IT. It’s no different with wine. Every grape has a personality and to truly give a wine complexity it must contain a variety of flavors and textures. Even one of the most famous wine grapes in the world, the Cabernet Sauvignon grape, is a genetic blend within itself because it’s a cross hybrid of the Cabernet Franc grape and the Sauvignon Blanc grape. Red meets white. It’s a beautiful thing.
Regardless if you’ve never tried a french wine before, a large number of wines we drink here in the U.S. coming out of California are blends even when the bottle doesn’t indicate it. In the U.S. the label needs to only indicate what was used in 75% of the wine. Although the blending grapes may only make up less than 1/4 of the wine, that’s still significant enough to change the entire taste of the wine.
Just to prove my point, I visited some websites of wineries that allow you to view the spec sheet of each wine. I randomly picked some red wines and then viewed the tasting notes and info on each one. Every one of these is either a “Cabernet Sauvignon” or “Merlot” and just as I suspected—every single one has other grapes mixed in.
Check it out:
2009 Clos DuVal Merlot:
18% Cab Sauvignon Blanc
5% Cabernet Franc
1% Petit Verdot
2009 Markham Cabernet Sauvignon:
79% Cabernet Sauvignon
7% Cabernet Franc
6% Petite Verdot
2% Petite Sirah
2009 Robert Mondavi Merlot
3% Cabernet Franc
2% Cabernet Sauvignon
Kenwood Vineyards 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon
88% Cabernet Sauvignon
2% Petit Verdot
1% Caberent Franc
2009 Clos Bu Bois Merlot
4% Petit Verdot
2% Cabernet Sauvignon
So as you can see, a LOT of wines are technically blends in order to bring out the flavor and beauty in each wine. While not every red wine is a blend (I have three bottles of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon downstairs), many are.
So if you’ve ever been hesitant to try an obvious blend (a wine that doesn’t have a varietal listed on the front such as Ménage à Trois) then have no fear because you’ve most likely already had a blend in some way, shape or form. They’re magnificent, and I highly suggest them. 😉