Red Wine, White Wine

The Truth About Blends

I don’t love blends. If you’ve been here before you know that, but I never really took the time to explain why – until now.

Let’s be honest here: blends aren’t all bad. Places like France and Italy blend so much they don’t even tell you the varietal on the label, and they must be doing something right. Right!?

Wines from these two countries tend to label their wines by region or appellation, and drinkers are expected to know the grapes common to that region and even the blends commonly used there. Wine is such big business that I wouldn’t be surprised if each winery’s blend information was locked away in a vault somewhere, only to be shared with the head wine-makers.

Let’s take the Bordeaux region in France as an example. Red wine from the Bordeaux is almost always made with some kind of blend of the same five grapes – Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Carmenere. Each grape brings something different to the wine and there’s more leeway than you’d think in terms of bouquet, flavour, and even aging potential.

Thanks to Pierre LANNES on flickr for this photo.

Thanks to Pierre LANNES on flickr for this photo.

But! I only learned this after doing some research. I have never seen a bottle of Bordeaux that identified the varietals used, much less the percentages.

I don’t like blends because they make it difficult to learn wine simply by tasting. How is my novice palate ever going to know the characteristics of a grape (much less what I like and what I don’t) with so many varietals at play in my glass?

Drinking blends means you have to trust the wine-maker, and when you’re a casual a drinker or a new one that can be a big gamble. Who do you trust when you don’t have the knowledge to know when they’re talking smack?

This is why I tend to shy away from blends. It’s only in the last few months, as I’ve gotten to know more French wine, that I’ve learned more about blending – which regions of the world regularly do it, what grapes they use, and so on. My ultimate goal is to know each varietal well enough to easily understand what each brings to a blend, which will probably mean doing a lot more homework both on single-varietal wines and then on blends.

See what I mean? Blends are complicated! Deliciously, wonderfully, complicated.

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