Have you ever raised an eyebrow at a friend for serving blended wine because you thought it was inferior? A lot of us look down upon the idea of blending wines because we associate a wine’s quality to its price, vineyard and purity. Thus, many assume that blended wines are an adulterated version of our favourite drink that compromises its quality. However, this notion couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Blended wines find their way into our bar cabinets more frequently than we would like to acknowledge, and yes, it happens even when you spend a sizeable amount on a bottle. While the price may indicate a wine’s quality (although this doesn’t imply that value-priced wines are inferior, that discussion is for another day), we can’t make the same claim about blending or other methods.
What is blended wine?
The term “blended wine” suggests its origin in the fusion of two or more unique grape varieties or wines, with the objective of drawing out the best characteristics from each component and forming a concluding blend that excels the individual wines in terms of both superior quality and intricate flavor. Nevertheless, what drives winemakers to partake in the practice of wine blending? The answer lies mostly in viticulture– the process of growing and harvesting grapes.
We know that cultivating wine grapes is not an easy task and presents a lot of challenges to winemakers. Factors like climate, soil conditions and availability of water can fluctuate every year, as a result of which the grapes produced can also be different. To maintain consistency or produce better quality wine with average produce, winemakers often resort to blending. For example, if a wine from one grape variety is overly tannic, a winemaker might blend it with another grape’s wine to soften the tannins and achieve a smoother end product.
Blended wines are made with two methods. Various grape varieties undergo separate winemaking processes. Afterward, the winemaker evaluates them and employs a trial-and-error approach to create an optimal blend. The majority of contemporary blended wines are produced utilizing this approach. The second method involves combining different grape varieties prior to initiating the winemaking process. This is referred to as a “field blend” and is still employed in crafting wines such as Port. However, mixing grapes beforehand gives lesser control to a winemaker over how the wine will turn out. This could be the reason why the field blending method isn’t common today.
Blended Wine is more common than you think
Although numerous affordable wines are blends, it’s important to note that not all blended wines are of lower quality. Bordeaux wines, popular all over the world, are a blend of different grape varieties, mainly Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Champagne, held in high esteem for its outstanding quality, undergoes meticulous crafting through the artful blend of three distinct grape varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Meunier.
Winemakers blend wines to maintain a consistent style year after year, regardless of variations in climatic conditions. Consequently, we should associate a bottle of blended wine with exceptional quality, skillful craftsmanship, and a representation of the inherent artistry in winemaking, rather than viewing it as a weakening or inferior option.
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