What Grapes Make the Best Wine Blends?


October 10, 2016 Blog » Wine Tips & Tricks » What Grapes Make the Best Wine Blends?

Each grape variety that’s added to a wine blend contributes a special attribute, which combines to create a perfectly well-rounded, rich and smooth tasting wine. Wines from Bordeaux and Champagne are world-renowned for their exceptional wine blends.

So, what grapes make the perfect blends?

Examples of 4 different common wine blends
Historically, the secret to great blends started with using wine grapes from the same place.

A Historical Tradition

History plays a leading role in determining the world’s best wine blends. Traditionally, when different grape varieties grew side-by-side in the vineyard, winemakers would pick them at the same time, and pool them together for fermentation. This style is now called a field blend (in fact, this is still how Port is made). However, over time, winemakers began to realize that fermenting varieties separately made for a more consistent recipe. Therefore, they began fermenting each grape variety in separate barrels and combined the different wines together afterward in a vat called a “cuvée.” These cuvées were then sold and labeled from the regions where the grapes were grown. This is why in old wine making countries, such as Italy and France, you’ll see wines named after a town (e.g. Rosso di Montalcino “red of Montalcino”).

The Most Popular Wine Blends

Some wine blends became so internationally well-known that the necessary grapes were exported throughout the world and the blends were recreated everywhere.

Bordeaux Blend

bordeaux-blends
Originating from Bordeaux, France, the world’s most popular wine blend uses Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot as the base ingredient along with Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot, and (sometimes) Carménère. There are many variations of this blend, depending on where it’s grown. In Tuscany, Sangiovese is blended with Cabernet and Merlot to create a “super Tuscan” blend. In Argentina, the region’s popular Malbec is blended with Cabernet Sauvignon to add complexity in another variant of this blend.


GSM Blend

gsm-blend-winefolly
(Also known as Côtes du Rhône Blend) Originating in the south of France, this blend uses Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre as its base ingredients along with an assemblage of other regional grapes (Cinsault, Carignan, Counoise, Grenache Blanc, etc.).

Mondeuse Wine Grape of Savoie

Wine Blends vs. Single-Varietal Wine

The difference between blended wines and single-varietal wines is comparable to the difference between single-origin coffee and a house blend. Single-origin coffees deliver a very specific taste profile with strongly defined tasting notes whereas, blends are made in a well-rounded style with generalized flavors. This is pretty much exactly how it works with wine:

  • Single-Varietal Wine: More focused flavors with more peaks and valleys in the taste profile
  • Wine Blend: More generalized flavors (e.g. berries) with a more rounded taste profile and finish

Champagne Blend

champagne-blend
The most commonly used blend for sparkling wines around the world consists of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and the Pinot Meunier (used for adding body). Of course, some regions add their own indigenous varieties (such as Cava) or include different varieties (such as Pinot Bianco in Franciacorta).


Port Blend

port-wine-blend
The most important grapes used for this dessert wine are Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), Touriga Nacional, Tinto Cão, and Tinta Barroca. In Portugal, this wine is still made using the field blend technique and, because of the incredible diversity of grapes in the region, some Ports have as many as 52 unique grape species blended together.

 

Famous Wine Blends Poster Chart

Wine Blends of the World

Remember the world’s most famous wines and wine blends with this 18×24 inch poster. Made in Seattle.

Wine Blends Poster

 

Emerging Blends

As new wine regions mature, they have begun to create and specialize in their own unique blends. It takes a great amount of skill to develop these blends, but more often than not, they involve the same ideology: what grows together, goes together. Here are a few examples:

Pinot Noir Blend

pinot-noir-blend
To make California Pinot Noir taste bolder and lusher, a dollop of Syrah is sometimes added to the mix. You don’t see this too much in the higher-end wines, but it tends to be common in more in the affordable wines where good color and body are harder to come by. Unfortunately, because of the relaxed laws for single-varietal labeling in California (wines need only contain 75% of the variety to be called Pinot Noir), it’s often not mentioned on the label. Still, if you ever come across an exceptionally dark Pinot Noir from the Central Coast, a touch of Syrah might be the reason why.


CMS Blend

cms-wine-blend
Washington’s specialty is a proud lack of specialization. Why? Because nearly every grape seems to grow well in the unique, cool, high desert climate. This innovative blend is a take on Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot together with Syrah to round it out.


California Zinfandel Blend

zinfandel-wine-blend
Zinfandel on its own is often very light in color and sometimes too fruity to be taken seriously. When combined with Petite Sirah, the wine gains much-needed boldness and balance from Petite Sirah’s ample tannin.


Carménère Wine Blend

carmenere-wine-blend
Carménère is almost like a lighter and more herbaceous sibling of Merlot. Because of its feather-weight body, some winemakers have taken to putting a dash of Petit Verdot into the blend to give the wine a richer, rounder profile.

 

Supertuscan Blend close up - Wine blend poster

Remember the world’s most famous wines and wine blends with this 18×24 inch poster. Made in Seattle.

Wine Blends Poster

 

Have you tried a unique wine blend that you loved or have observed in a particular corner of the world? Do tell! 🙂


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By Madeline Puckette
I'm a certified wine geek with a passion for meeting people, travel, and delicious food. You often find me crawling around dank cellars or frolicking through vineyards. Find me at @WineFolly