Wine blends





Many wine blends offer greater complexity to their single varietal counterparts, with skilled winemakers endeavouring to make a wine more than the sum of its parts by experimenting with small portions of different varietals.

One of the primary aims of blending different grape varietals is to balance out flavour characteristics in order to bring more depth of flavour, texture and aroma to a wine. Wine blending, or Coupage in France, is a practice which is arguably as old as winemaking itself, and it can also be used as a means to increase volume. In this instance, particularly in ordinary table wines made for everyday drinking, blending plays a crucial role in refining the differences between one vintage and its successor.

At its optimum, wine blending tends to afford the finest winemakers a freedom of expression and an opportunity to display their skills, and when executed at the highest level the wines produced are amongst the most complex, expressional and richly flavoured. Aroma, texture, colour, concentration, structure, body and finish are enhanced and although the combinations that result in the very best blends are seemingly endless, quality can be determined by the characteristics of the year and the expression of each grape.

Almost all of the world’s finest wines are made by blending, and although there used to be plenty of scepticism surrounding this widely used practice, particularly during the mid-20th century when wine regulations and laws were rarely enforced, blending is now used as a tool for improvement rather than deception.

Some of the finest wines in the world - from Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Rhone Valley amongst many others – do not carry a single varietal designation, while New World winemakers, particularly in Australia, are dynamic and enthusiastic wine blenders

Although Jancis Robinson MW suggests wine blending “…is a practice more distrusted than understood…” she also writes in The Oxford Companion to Wine that it “has been proved by the most rigorous of experiments, that a wine blend is superior to any one of its component parts.”

A few facts about wine blending:
 
• In Europe, regulation stipulates that a wine needs to be made up of 85% of one grape to be considered a single varietal wine.
 
• Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot are the iconic grape varietals used in Bordeaux red blends. Sauvignon, Semillon, and Muscadelle are the specified white varietals.
 
• Champagne is commonly a blend of at least two grape varietals and although there are single varietal champagnes such as blanc de blancs (exclusively made from Chardonnay or in rare occasions Pinot Blanc), they are more likely to be a blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meunier.
• Up to 13 grape varieties can be used in wine from the Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC in Rhone; the red varieties are Cinsault, Counoise, Grenache noir, Mourvèdre, Muscardin, Piquepoul noir, Syrah, Terret noir, and Vaccarèse. The wWhite and pink varieties are Bourboulenc, Clairette blanche, Clairette rose, Grenache blanc, Grenache gris, Picardan, Piquepoul blanc, Piquepoul gris, and Roussanne including Grenache, Mourvedre, Carignan, Cinsaut, Syrah, as well as a couple of white grapes, including Viognier.
 
• In the U.S. a varietal needs to be 75% of one type of grape which means that wines like the Blackstone Merlot, while considered a single varietal wine, have small portions of Syrah, Petit Syrah, Sangiovese and Cabernet Franc in the wine.
 
• GSM is a classic combination of three grape varieties (Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre) from the southern Rhone Valley.
 
• A non-vintage wine is a blend of wines from two or more years.
 
• In Bordeaux and Tuscany Cabernet Sauvignon is almost always blended to soften its intensely astringent tannins.

Some of our wine blends:

Over the Shoulder Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2008
 
 

A bold, fruit driven blend combining an old world style with typically contemporary winemaking ingenuity that is commonplace in Australia’s Yarra Valley. Highly acclaimed and named Wine of the Year in 2012 by The Age & Sydney Morning Herald, it’s soft and juicy with a medium body and well-structured tannins. It’s a serious wine and one that has fantastic ageing potential.

Blackstone Merlot 2010, California

Not strictly a blend but an example of experimental winemaking whereby other varietals are added to the primary grape, in this instance Merlot, in order to produce a wine more than the sum of its parts. This producer, based in California, refuse to let convention get in the way of making the best wine possible and this beautifully lingering and soft Merlot is testament to their ingenuity.

Côtes du Rhône, Les Rabassières 2009

An iconic blend from the Rhône consisting of 60% Grenache, 30% Syrah and 10% Mourvèdre matured for about 10 months in very large wooden barrels called 'tuns'. The name comes from the word truffle (rabasse in Provencal) and these grow under the oak trees along the edge of the vineyards. Ripe, crushed currant and berry fruit aromas with a note of mint are supported on the weighty palate by sweet spices.

MAIN IMAGE by RVWithTito
 
 

Written by: Ben Moss

Ben Moss 

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