Wine Blends

Wine Blends
There are over 1000 different kinds of grapes that can be made into wine. There’s even a book, written by the amazing Jancis Robinson, with a different grape on each page - she highlights 1,368 different varieties that all make a delicious wine in some corner of the Earth.

Most people are familiar with a couple different grape varieties - Pinot Noir and Cabernet are usually the popular red grapes (at least here in the U.S.). Some people might know about Cabernet Franc and most people know about Merlot, although usually think about it negatively (thanks, Paul Giamatti).

But the idea of growing and fermenting one single grape variety on its own has only been around for a few hundred years. Historically, everything was a blend. Not only that - they were blends of red and white grapes that were fermented together (what is known as a field blend). People didn’t take the time to separate out a specific grape variety (if they could even tell the difference) but instead let everything grow together.

Many blends today are put together by the winemaker, who ferments the different grapes separately then creates flavor combinations - in a role similar to a chef. The most famous blends are probably those from France. In Bordeaux, they use blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot (sometimes a little Malbec). If you’ve had these grapes on their own you know they generally make a fuller bodied wine. Together, they make a fuller bodied wine as well (with each grape bringing something different to the blend) - but not every blend is full bodied and made with Bordeaux varieties.

In Spain, Rioja is the most famous blended wine - always dominated by the earthy and complex Tempranillo grape. In Italy, Chianti is dominated by the medium bodied, acidic, and enticing Sangiovese, but almost always helped out by other grapes that bring different characteristics to the table. There are classic examples from all over the world, but some of the more interesting blends come from winemakers experimenting with blends that are uncommon (the Chardonnay x Merlot “Abracadabra” blend from the Floral Terranes team Roslyn is one of our favorites).

Many wines are blended without the consumer even realizing - in California, for instance, you only have to have 75% of a grape to put it on the label. So that Pinot Noir can have 25% Cabernet and they don’t even have to tell you! This can lead to a lot of confusion for the consumer who will find it difficult to know what they actually enjoy. 

Another place famous for blending grapes is the Rhône Valley. Here, in the north, you have some of the best value blends of Syrah (earthy with dark fruits) and Grenache (pretty with red fruits). One of our favorites is from J.L. Chave. While some of their fancy wines sell for thousands, their entry level “Mon Coeur” blend ($23) is always a go-to. In the south, you’ll find places like Châteauneuf-du-Pape - where you can blend 18 different grape varieties! Travel a little further south to Provence and you find the rosé blends that are cherished all over the world.

Blends come in all different shapes and sizes - some are light and fresh, some are full and brooding. So don’t write off blends because you’ve had one bad one - and similarly don’t write off mono-varietal wines if you only like blends (because your “Pinot Noir” is probably a blend anyway).
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