Single Varietal Superiority – Fact or Fiction?

As Traveling Vineyard wine enthusiasts, we generally talk about wine in terms of varietals – meaning the wine was created almost exclusively from one type of grape. Examples of varietals include Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Although it is common for a winery to add small amounts of alternative grapes to it’s varietals, a wine has to be at least 75 percent of one kind of grape for it to be considered a true varietal (in Europe it is 85 percent).

2010 Desvia

2010 Desvia

Traveling Vineyard 2010 Desvia, Rioja is blended with 70% Tempranillo, coupled with Garnacha and Mazuelo.

Contrary to popular belief, blended wines are in no way inferior to varietals. Blending is frequently used to “smooth out” a wine and to enhance it’s color, body or aroma which in turn leads to a more complex wine. One of the most highly regarded blended wines is Bordeaux, which is produced in the Bordeaux region of France. This wine is a combination of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot.

Traveling Vineyard Tanglerose Backyard Red is 70 percent Merlot blended with Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah.

Tanglerose Backyard Red

A blended wine can be achieved in a number of ways. The most common way is to create what is termed a, “vintage wine blend,” which combines different grapes grown during the same year (or harvest). These grapes can come from one vineyard or they can come from a variety of vineyards across a region. Although not as typical, some wine blends are “non-vintage,” where grapes from different harvest years are blended to produce a wine. A non-vintage wine will usually be labeled NV and won’t have a year printed on the label. After mixing the blends in a steel tank, winemakers might age the blend in oak barrels or they might allow the wines to ferment together. Just like when creating a varietal, a winemaker’s goal is to incorporate various methods in order to create and achieve a superior blended wine.

However, it is important to point out that some grapes are just not made for blending.  With a few exceptions (primarily in Europe) the majority of white wines are pure varietals. Likewise, the Pinot Noir grape is rarely used in the blending of wines.

When done correctly blended wines can be some of the best tasting and most unique wines available. The Traveling Vineyard carries some extraordinary blends created by our Wine Director Francis Sanders.


About the Author:

Ellen V. is an independent Wine Consultant with The Traveling Vineyard. To book a Free Wine Tasting with Ellen, you can visit her website at http://www.myttv.com/20704/.

Discussion

  1. January 6, 2013

    Very well written and rounded piece…thanks for sharing with us.