Wine blends made from 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 are some exciting new styles being developed as well as new takes on more traditional wine blends. 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.
When red meets white ….
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). They can also 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. Winemakers can choose which grapes will contribute their character to the final wine. Consequently, the acid or tannin profile may be softer, the aroma more perfumed and the body more fleshed out. Even the smallest addition of a companion variety can make a difference.
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. As a result, 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. However, this is not a new concept. Indeed, some wine regions have used this method for centuries. Moreover, these blends are particularly useful in poor vintages when a white wine grape may ripen more than the red wine grapes.
And those fields blends …
And that is not including the ‘field blends’ that historically might have included the odd white wine grape. While not common, there are more field blends becoming available as more artisanal winemakers take on this challenge. This type of wine 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 wine blends that will continue to intrigue you each year.
Never the less, whether you love red, white or pink wines, fine wines or quaffers, here are some great wine blend recommendations:
10. Chateau Musar ‘Musar Jeune’ White 2018 – A savoury combination of unoaked viognier, vermentino and chardonnay. The viognier adds its apricot and stonefruit plushness to the lemon citrus line of crisp acid. There is a smoky minerality tautness too. UK £13 | USA $19++
9. Brisa de Verano Garnacha Tinta – A rich, ripe Spanish red, offering up some of the best of bush vine garnacha for the price. The blackberry and cherry fruit is bright and full on flavour. The rich fruit character is freshened up with a good handful of sage. Some syrah adds that blackberry fruit, some purple highlights and extra dimension to the low yielding garnacha. UK £10
8. Gerard Bertrand Cotes du Roses – a reliable ‘go-to’ wine and coming from the Languedoc, it is a good value alternative to the popular Provence wines. It is a classic regional blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah. The fresh strawberry, raspberry and red currant fruit aromas take on a floral appeal on the palate. Certainly, it is an easy choice for lunch or a long afternoon with friends.
7. Goats du Roam Red – as any lover of French wine would know the name this is a play on the region Côtes du Rhône and a tip of the hat to the varieties that make up this playful South African red blend. Cinsault from bush vine vineyards, Grenache, Mourvedre, Petite Sirah, Syrah make up the dominant varieties. An addition of Tempranillo adding its Spanish inflection. US$9++ | UK £9.5 | AU$17
6. Chateau Coussin Sainte Victoire Famille Sumeire– a traditional pale salmon Côtes de Provence rosé blend that delivers a ripe lush load of summer fruits along a silkily textured palate. A solid performer that gives a lot of pleasure with or without food. Clearly, a traditional South of France salad would be an ideal food match. Or maybe some barbequed spatchcock with a light chilli dressing. US$ 17| UK £15
And five more …
5. Flavabom Field White
This is a tasty four varietal field blend from the Riverland area in Australia. These four white varieties; Muscadelle, Chenin Blanc, Colombard and Semillon, are varieties that have a deep history in the area. The redolent aromas of floral, peach, and just picked nectarine reaches out from the glass. Having some time in French oak has given this Flavabom some spiciness to flesh it out. AU$20 | UK£12 | US$20
4. Santa Julia Reserva Malbec Cabernet Franc
It is more common to see Malbec blended with the star of Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon. In the same manner, this 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. Obviously, 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 wine 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. Incidentally, this one is lushly enjoyable now. It is also a wine for mid term cellaring. US$75+ | AU$108 | UK£70 (For more information visit Clonakilla website)
Note: This post was orginally posted 28th February 2019 and was updated 30th January 2020.