Winemakers around the world are looking to make a wine with great flavor and good balance so it will appeal to a lot of people. Because of the vast number of combinations of grapes, regions, and individual winemaking creativity, we are seeing a surplus of unique blended wines.
WHY BLEND WINES?
For a single grape varietal, winemakers are limited to the amount of the actual grape that goes into a bottle. There are strict guidelines for the percentage of that grape that must appear on the label. For example, in the United States it is 75%, in Europe it is 80%, and in Argentina it is 85%.
In the cases that there is a smaller or lower quality harvest, perhaps due to a rainy season or fires in California, winemakers are faced with a challenge. The challenge becomes, what can we do to enhance flavor, add structure, and create a delicious wine to age and enjoy? The answer: Blending! The use of a smaller percentage of a single grapes along with other grapes can bring out the best for all.
This is not a new phenomenon. This has been in practice in the Bordeaux and Southern Rhone regions in France, as well as in Italy, where making a great Amarone is traditionally done with three grape varietals.
THE MERITAGE ALLIANCE
I wanted to explore how blending wines has been done successfully in United States, which brought me to the Meritage Alliance in California. Founded in 1998, this alliance is a way to help winemakers utilize quality grapes if their production does not meet the standard of 75%. With the addition of other, similar grapes, winemakers can produce a wonderful and robust new wine.
The Meritage Alliance set forth criteria to ensure these wines would be superb and rich in flavor, and not just a way for grape growers to get rid of bad harvest stock that year. Meritage stands for the words “merit” and “heritage,” alluding to their long-standing tradition of allowing winemakers the use of the best quality crops for superior wines.
Looking at wines from California, we see the time and effort each winemaker must work to produce unique wines with character, flavor and aging potential that can stand up to those made in Europe. California produces some wonderful wines already. But with the blending techniques of additional grapes, winemakers can produce wines that outperform for taste and quality.
RECENT BLENDS I LOVE
Recently, I tasted wines from Umbria, a unique and interesting region of Italy. Two of these were from Orvieto (white blend) and Bocale Winery (red blend) with sagrantino grape. Wow, what great taste with nice aromas and finish. Both wines gave our guests a nice surprise and an appreciation for hard-work and determination by the winemakers.
Finding these gems from Europe are not very hard, and it’s getting easier every year. When we do open them, it is always a pleasure to embrace the wines as the winemaker have intended with aromas and bouquets that are remarkable. At Time For Wine, it is our mission and pleasure to bring unique wines, including blends, from all over the world right to you. Click Cheers to shop our current collection!