3 (Delicious) Benefits of Blending

redblendsBack 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:

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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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