Why most wines
Whether we know it or not, most of the wines we love are blends. Although exact details differ from region to region a varietal wine – named for its predominant grape variety – can legitimately contain up to 15 per cent of grapes or wine made from other varieties.
Different wine grapes have different primary fruit flavours. Adding – for instance – early-ripening Merlot to Cabernet Sauvignon (... which is common in France's Bordeaux) can fill out the minty blackcurrant flavours of the Cabernet with rich, sweet notes of cherries and plums.
Blended reds, whites and rosés all have naturally more complex flavours, echoing the individual varieties' taste profiles. Many blends are historically traditional. 'Old World' blends tend to reflect indigenous regional varieties. 'New World' blends combine varietal availability with styles that winemakers think the market would prefer.
Blended whites are definitely wines that are greater than the sum of their individual components. Each wine grape brings its own particular flavour – apples, pears, peaches, lemons, grapefruit and a variety tropical fruits to the finished wine.
Argentina's La Riojana Cooperative's 'Believer' White $15.99 marries the country's signature white wine grape - Torrontes - with the currently very trendy and widely planted Pinot Grigio. The high-toned and flowery 'grapey' green apple flavours of Torrontes ride the solid base of peach, lemon and lime that Pinot Grigio contributes to the blend.
Here in British Columbia – thanks in part to German expert Helmut Becker's advice in 1976 – Riesling and Gewürztraminer were responsible for many of our earliest fine white wines. Lake Breeze's 'The Spice Jar' $19.00 takes 35 per cent lychee scented Gewürztraminer and adds exuberantly peachy Ehrenfelser and some spicy Schönberger and a splash of Viognier. Off-dry and deliciously fruity, this is a gorgeous white blend.
Ricco Bambino is a low intervention boutique winery in Kelowna. Bambino Bianco $29.00 is a blend of 70 per cent Riesling with 30
per cent Viognier wild-fermented on its own native yeasts. Peppery apple core aromas and flavours yield to nutty, mushroomy undercurrents in this unusual 'natural' white.
Blended red wines are just as varied – traditional, inventive and primarily based on what is available to the winemaker.
South of Okanagan Falls, Stag's Hollow Winery has a reputation for innovation. Stag's Hollow Simply Noir $18.00 is a lighter blend of 84 per cent Pinot Noir, 11 per cent Merlot and 5 per cent Gamay Noir. Sassy cherry and ripe strawberry flavours come together in this silky red.
Chianti is a very traditional Italian blended red from Tuscany. Sangiovese is the backbone of all true Chianti. Although it is Italy's most widely planted red wine grape, Tuscany is its spiritual home.
Salcheto Chianti 'Biskero' $18.99 is crafted from 85 per cent Sangiovese with 5 per cent each of Canailo, Mammolo and Merlot. Black cherry, ripe plum and liquorice aromas and flavours come together beautifully in this soft and juicy naturally organic red blend.
'New World' Meritage blends mimic the grape varieties that are traditionally used in France's Bordeaux. Meritage reds can include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot, St. Macaire, Gros Verdot and Carmenère .
Back in the warm southern Okanagan Valley, Noble Ridge Estate Winery is also south of Okanagan Falls. Noble Ridge Meritage $34.99 is primarily Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon with a dash of Cabernet Franc and Malbec. Aromas and flavours of jammy black cherry, blackberry, prunes and dark chocolate slide seamlessly into oaky notes of vanilla, cedar and coffee with every sip of this rich, full-bodied red.
If you haven't already been converted to the mouth-filling complexity of blended wines, start your explorations today with any of these seductive wines.
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