Wines made from a blend of two or more grape varieties have become a lot more interesting in recent times.
Wines made from a blend of grape varieties have become a lot more interesting in recent times. There was a moment last decade when it seemed that wine should follow a more purist format and if it wasn’t a 100% varietal wine, it was deemed as lesser quality. In the push to achieve the ultimate varietal expression of individual grape varieties, it seemed that we had forgotten the heights that the famous blends, such as Bordeaux, achieved and why.
Chianti is one that immediately springs to mind. Another classic region is Côte-Rôtie where a small addition of viognier has long been added to syrah. The addition of white grapes to red can preserve the colour (shiraz-viognier blends are often a vibrant colour) and can add body as well as adding to the melody of aromas and flavours.
Not only do blends offer immediate pleasure by allowing the best of all the varieties included in the blend to bring out the best in the wine, they are also often more food friendly. Because winemakers can choose which grapes will contribute their character to the final wine, the acid or tannin profile may be softer, the aroma more perfumed and the body more fleshed out with even the smallest addition of a companion variety.
The strength of blending becomes very apparent in vintages where one of the grape varieties does not quite reach optimal ripeness but the other varieties do. This means a winemaker can produce a wine in the less stellar vintages.
In the past five years, blends have taken on a new life with the growth in popularity of adding white wine grapes to black grapes. This is not a new concept, some wine regions have used this method for centuries, particularly in poor vintages where a white wine grape may ripen more than the red wine grapes.
And that is not including the ‘field blends’ that historically might have included the odd white grape. While not common, there are more field blends becoming available as more artisanal winemakers take on this challenge. This type of blend is where the vineyard is planted with grapes of different, often local, varieties and all the grapes are harvested at the same time and while still mixed together, they are fermented. This is a challenge because there is much less control over how the grapes work together in that final wine. It makes for wines that will continue to intrigue you each year.
Whether you love red, white or pink wines, fine wines or quaffers, here are some recommendations:
5. Chateau Coussin Sainte Victoire Famille Sumeire– a traditional pale salmon Côtes de Provence rosé blend that delivers a ripe lush load of summer fruits along a silkily textured palate. A solid performer that gives a lot of pleasure with or without food. A traditional South of France salad would be an ideal food match, or maybe some barbequed spatchcock with a light chilli dressing. US$ 17| UK £15
4. Santa Julia Reserva Malbec Cabernet Franc– It is more common to see Malbec blended with the star of Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon. However, in this blend, Argentinian Malbec has been partnered with great effect with (30%) Cabernet Franc. That addition of Cabernet Franc has given the blend a light herbal, garni bouquet nuance to the aromas and palate and a plush fullness to the tannins. Of course, when you think Argentinian food, a great steak would be hard to pass up. US$10 | UK£10 | AU$15
3. Turkey Flat Barossa Valley White blend – This blend of marsanne, viognier and roussanne celebrates the rich tapestry of Rhone grapes that have found a definite Australian accent, or make that a drawl. The ripe nectarine fruit has been emboldened with a soft spiciness here & it shines a spotlight on just how good white wines can be from the Barossa Valley. Not just good for sitting and enjoying in the sunshine, but it is a great match for lunch and dinner as well. AU$25 | UK£15 (or look for the similar blend under the label Turkey Flat Butcher’s Blend White)
2. Raul Perez Ultreia Saint Jacques– This Mencia comes from old vineyards over a century old and joined by a small amount of other local grape varieties Alicante Bouschet (Garnacha Tintorera) and Bastardo. A fruity, ripe and deliciously plump blend of some of Spain’s more interesting grape varieties and that berry and earthy combination makes this an ideal dinner companion.US$17.99 | €10 | UK£8.50
1. Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier– Inspired by the Guigal family wines from Côte-Rôtie, this is one of Australia’s benchmark shiraz blends where the cool climate shiraz has been fermented with a small portion of the white grape, viognier. This gives the blend its typical bright hue and a floral rose and apricot perfume plus an extra pinch of pepper (black and white) to the already peppery and lushly ripe plum and cherry fruit and chocolate fruit. One for mid term cellaring but lushly enjoyable now. US$75+ | AU$108 | UK£70