Back in 2011, I wrote this blog titled, “Why Winemakers Blend.”
It took a look at two very different approaches to winemaking though two bottlings crafted from winegrapes grown in the Rutherford district of California’s Napa Valley. One wine was 99% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Merlot — barely a blend at all. The other consisted of 93% Cabernet Sauvignon, although there had been vintages in which the Cab component was as low as 60% — which meant it couldn’t even be called “Cabernet Sauvignon” on the label.
The point of the blog was that different winemakers blend for different reasons. Here are three that I can think of off the top of my head:
- To make the absolute best wine possible.
This may involve testing dozens of combinations of individual lots of wines until the winemaker’s palate experiences that “wow” moment.
- To help overcome perceived deficiencies in one or more components of the blend.
We must always remember that while making wine is a craft, selling it is a business, and it doesn’t make good business sense to allow good (if not necessarily great) wine to go unused. So, to a bottling of Merlot, a vintner may add a portion of Cabernet Sauvignon to enhance body, or a dollop of Cabernet Franc to elevate the aroma.
- To maintain a “house style.”
Let’s say you loved the 2010 vintage of a particular wine, but then along came the 2011 release, and it didn’t impress you nearly as much. That can happen with single-vineyard wines in particular, but also with appellation-specific blends. Over the years, Kendall-Jackson has shown that by sourcing grapes from a wide array of growing areas, it can craft wines that are amazingly similar from year to year — which explains why K-J wines are wildly popular on restaurant wine lists.
All in all, I believe that blending is a good thing, whether it’s to promote consistency from year to year, to help a specific bottling be everything it can be, or simply to make the best wine possible.
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