Which is better, a single variety or a blend?
Most wine drinkers are familiar with the popular varieties of wine grapes. Some people love Cabernet Sauvignon, but won’t drink Zinfandel. Others dislike Chardonnay but enjoy Sauvignon Blanc. But what happens if a particular wine is a blend of two or more varieties? Should a wine drinker even try a blend of both a beloved and hated variety?
Many people think blends are inferior wines to single varietals. They learn about wine by learning about varietals, not regions. So they ask for Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay, etc Yet one of the world’s most famous, and greatest, wines, Bordeaux, is usually a blend. A fine Bordeaux can be of one or more of these grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec. And a White Bordeaux can be a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.
Why blend? Why not just make a wine of one particular grape? Doesn’t a winemaker know that people may ask for a “Chardonnay”/ They may turn their noses up if a wine merchant offers a great selection that is a blend Chardonnay and another variety. A great Champagne, for instance, can be just Chardonnay, but could also be a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and possibly some other lesser known varieties.
Blending is an art. A winemaker doesn’t simply take some of this, some of that, mix them together, and voila! a delicious wine. What can one variety add to another that makes the sum greater than its parts?
Blending different varieties into a single wine can add complexity, aroma, and texture. It can make a wine feel more robust, appear darker in color or give it greater structure. Even adding just 5% of a different grape can alter a wine significantly. A winemaker will experiment using small samples to get the exact wine he is looking for. Then he will make a larger quantity of wine recreating that same formula. Sometimes a winemaker will even ferment different grapes together in the same tank or barrel.
The resulting wine is, well, that’s up to you to taste it and see if you like it. Many of the world’s greatest red and white wines are made this way.