What Exactly Is a Wine Blend?

fruits-grapes-grapevines-45209.jpgThere are a great many misconceptions and misnomers about wine. One of them revolves around the term “blend.”

It seems pretty cut and dried, right? You take some Cabernet Sauvignon and mix it with some Merlot and you have a blend, right?


But there’s a lot more to it than that. And a lot less, depending on how you look at it. Let’s break it down…

Throughout history, winemakers have used various varieties of grapes to produce blends, also known as cuvees. In some cases, they use the same percentage of each variety from year to year, so the wines may vary considerably by vintage. In other cases, they’ll vary the percentages in order to emulate a “house style” that exhibits virtually no vintage variation.

In some European countries, the varieties and sometimes the percentages are dictated by law and/or tradition in specific regions. This helps to maintain a region’s reputation for certain styles of wine.

For most of its wine history, the United States had no specific name for its outstanding blended wines. That changed in 1988 when a a small group of Napa Valley and Sonoma County vintners formed the Meritage Association.

“Meritage” marries the words “merit” and “heritage,” and as enticing as it may be to make it sound like a French word, it actually rhymes with “heritage.” The Meritage Association, now known as the Meritage Alliance, gives wineries a recognizable name it can place on the labels of what typically are its most special cuvees.

Finally, let us dispel perhaps the greatest of all wine myths and let you know that EVERY bottle of wine is a blend.

Even a wine made from a single variety of grapes grown in a single vineyard is a blend. That’s because as the grapes are harvested and crushed, the juice from one “lot” intermingles with juice from other parts of the vineyard, and creates a cuvee — a blend — as it ferments.

Taking it to the extreme, the only way one could experience a non-blended wine would be for a winery to pick, crush and ferment the grapes from a single vine. But it’s a whole lot easier to go with the most common perception: that a wine blend consists of two or more varieties.

When it comes to enjoying wine, why let semantics get in the way?


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Posted in Wine Buzz
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