Why blended wines?
In a world where creativity and innovation is taking over tradition, it’s no wonder that blended wines are becoming so popular among wine lovers. Therefore, winemakers are looking to make wines with great flavor and balance so it will appeal to many people.
For a single varietal, you don’t have as many options. Most importantly, there are strict guidelines for the percentage of actual grape that must appear on the label. For the United States, it is 75%. In Europe, it is 80%. In Argentina it is 85%. Furthermore, imagine if there was too much rain and the harvest did not yield best quality. How can winemakers stay ahead?
So, the challenge becomes this:
What can winemakers do to enhance flavor, add structure and create a delicious wine to enjoy?…
Creating blended wines means using a smaller percentage of a single grape. Winemakers combine other grapes into the blend that can bring out the best of all. Many blended wines don’t just enhance the grapes, but create a new taste combination unique to that blended wine.
Wine blending is not a new phenomenon by any means. Blending has been in practice in France’s Bordeaux region and the Southern Rhone, and in Italy. In fact, Italy is where making a great Amarone is done with traditional 3 grape varietals.
The Meritage Alliance
I wanted to explore how this has been done successfully in United Sates and looked at the Meritage Alliance in California. Meritage stands for the words “merit” and heritage”. Founded in 1998, the Meritage Aliliance was a way to help winemakers utilize quality grapes that did not meet the standard of 75% for a single varietal. With addition of other similar grapes, winemakers can produce a wonderful and robust new wine.
The Meritage Alliance set forth criteria to ensure that these wines would be superb and rich in flavor. Since the alliance didn’t want blending to be a way for grape growers to get rid of a bad harvest stock, this criteria was important. Most importantly, high quality grapes and a long-standing tradition uses the best crop quality for superior blended wines.
Wine Blends Around the Globe
Looking at wines from California, we see the time and effort each winemaker must use to produce unique blended wines with character, flavor and aging potential. Of course, they want their wine blends to stand up to those made in Europe. California produces some wonderful blended wines, and with the blending techniques of additional grapes, they can improve some wines to outperform for taste and quality.
For example, I recently tried blended wines from Umbria, a unique and very interesting Region of Italy. I tasted the Orvieto (white blend) and Bocale Winery (red blend), the most noteworthy European blends I’ve had. Wow, what great taste and flavors with nice aromas and finish. Both blended wines gave our guests at our Mardi Gras Teach n’ Taste Event a nice surprise and an appreciation for hard-work and determination by the winemakers.
Finding these blended wine gems from Europe is not very hard. And when we do open them, it is always a pleasure to embrace the wines as the winemaker has intended, with aromas and bouquets that are remarkable.
Also, don’t forget to attend our next Teach n’ Taste event on March 28th, all about Pinot Noirs!