Everywhere from high-end wine shops to supermarkets, red blends are suddenly white-hot. But what are they, exactly?
Here’s a question that may not have occurred to you before: When is a wine like a burrito? The answer, as I recently discovered, becomes clear when you’re making one—specifically, a red blend.
Let me define the term. In the US, a red blend is essentially any domestic wine that’s not made from a specific grape variety. If you’ve ever purchased Apothic Red or Gnarly Head Authentic Black at a supermarket for $15 or so, you’re part of the trend (oddly enough, a $750 bottle of Harlan Estate falls into the category, too). Red blends now sell more, by volume, than either Pinot Noir or Merlot, and they’re on track to become even more popular than Cabernet Sauvignon, the longtime red wine king.
It’s a strange category, because many, and possibly even most, red wines are and have always been blends. A grand cru Bordeaux made from 100 percent Cabernet is the exception rather than the rule, as are Chiantis made from 100 percent Sangiovese. Also, California law only requires a wine to include 75 percent of the grape variety on the label, which means the bargain Pinot Noir you had at a dinner party the other night might well have been 10 percent Syrah. (Just don’t tell your host.)
Winemakers blend grapes because it allows them, in a sense, to design a wine. A little Merlot can help soften Cabernet’s tannins; a touch of Syrah can give some oomph to watery, cheap Pinot. In many regions, blending is traditional: Rioja, for example, historically blends Tempranillo, Graciano and Garnacha. On the other hand, many new, affordable red blends are simply concocted for mass appeal—lots of superripe, dark fruit and not very much acidity—using whatever varieties will do the trick.
First, you don’t have to be a winemaker or even a wine expert to come up with some extremely smart observations about blending. But here’s the burrito part. When winemakers assemble a blend, they almost always start from a base; then begin adding in other varietals to compliment or add desired attributes. And while wine romantics might not agree, for me the whole process does remind me of assembling a burrito: using steak or chicken or some other protein as your base, adding salsa or jalapeños for spice, then maybe some sour cream and cheese for richness—but not too much of any of them, the whole point being balance.
The end result should be one in which each component, though clearly present, was subordinate to the whole. No one would take a sip of the wine and think that it tasted like 40 percent old-vine Zin, 40 percent Malbec and Cabernet Franc, 15 percent Grenache and 5 percent Syrah. Instead, anyone who tries a good red blend will sit back and think, Wow, that’s good.
(Original article sourced from FoodandWine.com)
The 8 wines listed below show the red-blend trend at its best:
The nose is dominated by aromas of dark brooding cassis and blackberry liqueur followed by undertones of crushed volcanic rock, incense and sweet toasty oak.
Dark garnet color,exuberant nose offres blueberries and cassis with hints of cappuccino aromas. In the palate, Padlock opens up on more dark fruits with seductive truffle notes.
Encore after encore, this proprietary blend never fails to satisfy the eye and palate. Refined melodies of black-plum, dark berries and coffee notes are enhanced by a purposeful symmetry of balanced tannins and acidity. Pair with music!
Rich dark berry fruit with cherry highlights is heightened by bright acidity and a bold tannin structure. Bursting with concentrated fruit on the nose, a second waft reveals notes of roasted herbs, pepper and spice. ‘Delicious’ is the word most used to describe Pazzo.
Utilizing great Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from the dramatic Hossfeld Vineyard located in Soda Canyon, and blending with the Tempranillo to make a sumptuous, velvety wine with great aging potential.
The medium garnet-purple 2014 Henry’s Seven shows both black and red berries, spices and some floral/potpourri notes; there are also hints of eucalyptus.
For such a massive wine, the nose gives off a whimsical red berry fruit aroma atop a core of new leather and lush forest floor.
The 2014 Oliver’s Blend is largely Cabernet Sauvignon (93% with 7% Merlot) aged in nearly three-fourths French oak for 18 months prior to being bottled.