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 once featured a wine with a varietal makeup of 70% Chardonnay, 20% Sauvignon Blanc and 10% Symphony. Mathematical logic tells us that the 10% portion would be overwhelmed by the majority varieties in the blend. Which raises the question: Why even include that 10% portion?
Because, as it turns out, even 5% of a blend can make a big difference in the finished product.
Before moving to Sonoma Cutrer, Mick Schroeter made Sauvignon Blanc and other wines at Sonoma County’s Geyser Peak Winery. Although Geyser Peak’s Sauvignon Blanc was 100% varietal, it was still a blend because the winery sourced grapes from a number of growing regions. The 2006 vintage, for example, was a blend of 60% Sonoma County grapes, 25% Lake County, 10% Mendocino County and 5% Monterey County.
Why even bother with that Monterey fruit? After all, Sauvignon Blanc is Sauvignon Blanc, right?
Wrong. It turns out that the Monterey fruit played an absolutely critical role in the finished product.
“It’s all about where it’s from,” Schroeter told us at the time. “If it’s a pungent green-bean, asparagus-juice parcel like the one we source in Monterey, 5% can have an enormous impact on the final wine.
“One year,” Schroeter recalled, “we started our blending with the usual 5% from Monterey, but there was something that didn’t seem to fit right. So, we took out some of that component — the 5% was cut back to about 3% — and the wine was perfect. There’s a case where just 2% of the blend made all the difference.”
Lesson learned: When you consider the varietal make-up of a wine, don’t scoff at the minority varieties. They could be providing the defining characteristics of that wine.