Far from being the remnants of a few bargain buckets all cobbled together to make a few bucks, blended wines are actually among the most interesting and challenging. If you never imagined yourself drinking a blend, here are some things you need to know.

The difference between a varietal and a grape

A varietal like Chardonnay or Merlot, for example, is made entirely from the same grape. Occasionally winemakers might use grapes grown on different vineyards, but the type of grape is the same. In the US, the wine needs to be 75% one grape, while in Europe it’s 80%.

A blend is just that – a blend. Usually, a blend will contain 40-50% of one grape and then the remainder is made from two or three different grapes.

Blending adds complexity

This process is used to bring out the aromas, colors, body, finish and so on. If a particular wine doesn’t have a strong smell, for example, then the winemaker can add 10% of a more aromatic wine to give it more nose.

In Argentina, the main wine is Malbec, and a Merlot can be added to give it more aroma, or some Sauvignon to give it more tannins. To make a blend really work takes expertise and experience and many blends will vary over the years depending on the characteristics of that year’s harvest. The permutations are endless.

Some wines are made for blending

Winemakers, especially bulk wineries, will often produce barrels of a single varietal just to go into blends. As the grapes are harvested, the winemaker will decide what sort of blend the grapes will be good for and decide which barrels will go into it. The point is to create a synergy between the different grapes, to get them to bring out the best in each other.

Young and old wines can be used

There are many different stages that the wines can be at when they enter the blend. They tend to be mixed in steel tanks and then they may be aged in oak barrels, depending on the eventual price point. Sometimes the wines are put into barrels halfway through the aging process, and some winemakers let the different grapes ferment together. It all depends on how each grape behaves with the others.

Some grapes don’t go into blends

Whites don’t tend to be blended, although some European regions do specialise in this. Reds like Pinot Noir are rarely mixed in with others, too.


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