When ‘New World’ wines – from North and South America, Australia and South Africa – began to edge out the market share of traditional European wines, winemakers named the wines by their primary variety of grape.
Previously ‘Old World’ wines were named for the regions in which they were produced – Burgundy, Rhone, Chianti, Moselle – and savvy wine lovers knew what grapes were involved in each case.
Winemakers in France, Spain and Italy have since realized the error of the ways and many have started adding the grape varieties to their labels along with the traditional regional geographic information.
Truth be told, however, historically many ‘Old World’ wines are (…and still are!) blends of different varieties. Similarly, most ‘New World’ winemakers are allowed to blend in up to 15 per cent of un-named grapes in wines that are named for the single, primary variety.
Sometimes these decisions are based on tradition but often the winemakers are seeking to add depth and complexity of flavour by incorporating grapes with different weight and taste profiles. Most times blended wines are noticeably greater than the sum of their individual parts. Likely why the practice is so widespread…
Chile and Argentina continue to astonish and captivate us with the intensity and quality of their wines. Add extreme affordability to that and there’s no chance that we’ll get over their wines anytime soon.
From Chile, Vina Maipo 'Classic Series' Cabernet Sauvignon Carmenere (119651) $8.99 marries the red and black fruit flavour of cherry and blackcurrant of cabernet with the damson plum notes and spicy green pepper character of ‘The Lost Grape’ Carmenere.
Next up is Australia where there’s a tradition of Aussie Rules Football where players can position themselves anywhere on the field and use any part of their bodies to move the ball. The primary methods are kicking, handballing and running with the ball. Is it any surpise their blends are innovative?
Australia has been blending the blackcurrant and minty cedar character of Cabernet with the deep, ripe blackberry notes of Shiraz for 50 years. Jacob's Creek Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon (106377) $11.99 starts with ripe, jammy, peppery blackberry Shiraz aromas and flavours and adds the blackcurrant, mint and berry of Cabernet.
Equally innovative, winemakers in California have been inventing their own blends for more than 50 years. And clearly that is not over yet… Not satisfied with taking grapes from Sonoma, Napa, Lodi and Santa Barbara and stretching the limits of regionality, they are now going global!
New from Modesto California – the home base of E & J Gallo – Longshot Big Red Blend (236938) $14.99 takes the whole blending idea a step farther by sourcing Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Malbec, and Petit Verdot from California, Argentina, Spain and Chile. The result is a full-bodied red with world-travelling status. Just too darned easy to like…
Italian winemakers have been working with Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, Barbera and Aglianico for centuries. French ‘noble’ varieties are cropping up more and more frequently in some of the highest quality Italian reds.
From Italy’s famed Tuscany – birthplace of traditional Chianti and the now highly respected Super-Tuscans - Danzante Tuscan Red (857698) $17.99 is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and a little Sangiovese. Intensely aromatic with a medley of herbal and vegetal notes, it offers up flavours blackberry and blueberry with an intriguing twist of wild strawberries in the finish.
Here in British Columbia, our winemakers are no less adventurous. From the crazy folks at The Hatch in the Okanagan Valley’s Westbank, Screaming Frenzy Meritage (598953) $24.30 is “a truly debauched blend of 47 per cent Merlot, 39 per cent Petit Verdot and 14 per cent Malbec” sourced from Jagger’s Rock in the Similkameen Valley -- the hottest micro-climate in all the Valley.
Not to be left out, South Africa is gradually progressing from everyday affordable red wines to astonishingly ripe, complex and award-winning blends.
From mostly old bush vines planted in the 1950’s and 1960’s on Kalmoesfontein farm in the Swartland appellation of South Africa, Badehorst Family’s Secateurs Red Blend (486506) $34.99 is a spicy, smoky blend of low yielding Shiraz, Cinsault and Grenache. Bright black raspberry, dark cherry and dusty earthy notes segue into a funky earthy finish with a twist of black liquorice.
Take a walk on the wild side of blended reds and sip some of these delicious wines!
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