Blending wine is part science and part art. But don’t ask us to attach percentages to those parts; that would be pure conjecture.
The scientific aspect involves pairing only varieties that complement one another structurally. Determining how much of this, how much of that and how much of the other goes into the blend is where the art comes in.
Vinesse recently featured a wine with a varietal makeup of 70 percent Chardonnay, 20 percent Sauvignon Blanc and 10 percent Symphony. Mathematical logic tells us that the 10 percent portion would be overwhelmed by the majority varieties in the blend. Which raises the question: Why even include that 10 percent portion?
Because, as it turns out, even 5 percent of a blend can make a big difference in the finished product.
Mick Schroeter has been making Sauvignon Blanc at Sonoma County’s Geyser Peak Winery for 10 years. Although the wine is 100 percent varietal, it’s still a blend because Geyser Peak sources grapes from a number of growing regions. For the 2006 vintage, the blend consists of 60 percent Sonoma County grapes, 25 percent Lake County, 10 percent Mendocino County and 5 percent Monterey County.
So why even bother with that Monterey fruit? After all, Sauvignon Blanc is Sauvignon Blanc, right?
Wrong. It turns out that the Monterey fruit plays an absolutely critical role in the finished product.
“It’s all about where it’s from,” Schroeter says. “If it’s a pungent green-bean, asparagus-juice parcel like the one we source in Monterey, 5 percent can have an enormous impact on the final wine.
“One year,” Schroeter recalls, “we started our blending with the usual 5 percent from Monterey, but there was something that didn’t seem to fit right. So, we took out some of that component – the 5 percent was cut back to about 3 percent – and the wine was perfect. There’s a case where just 2 percent of the blend made all the difference.”
Lesson learned: When you peruse the varietal make-up of a wine in the tasting notes we enclose with each bottle, don’t scoff at those minority varieties. They could be providing the defining characteristics of that wine.