Blending wine can be a very rewarding experience. But at the same time, it is not without its challenges. If you are new in the exciting world of wines, you might want to learn more about wine blending before making any attempts.
Let’s dive into the world of wine blending, why winemakers do it, how they do it, what are its benefits, and why some wines are blended while others aren’t.
Why do winemakers blend wine?
The purpose of blending is to enhance the expression of some wine. A blend can enhance texture, aromas, body, finish, and aroma. That way, we end up with a complex wine that is better rounded.
For example, if a particular wine has a weak scent, the winemaker can add several percent of some potent smelling wine. That way, the wine will have a stronger scent while preserving most of its other features. In some wines, such as Sangiovese wine, blending is commonly used with other grapes to bring out the best qualities of the wine.
The second wine can come from another vineyard, harvested at a different point of ripeness, fermented differently, kept in another type of vessel, and so on. These choices are left to the winemaker or the person that is doing the actual blending.
All in all, wine blending gives winemakers more control of certain aspects. The list of main factors that influence blending decisions include:
- Grape variety
- Soil type
- Picking date
- The time wine has spent in oak and the type of oak
- Alcohol levels
How do Winemakers Blend Wine?
There is no exact formula or a written guide on how to blend wines. Winemakers are blending to marry two distinctive elements or to enhance some elements. Before they start, they know the distinctive features of every wine.
First, the winemaker extracts wine from each barrel. Typically, they make 100 ml sample blends. Also, one of the first things they do is create a “base blend”. The base is the foundation of the blend.
The blending is first in larger percentages. Once you hit a taste that might feel pleasant, you lower the percentage until you hit the perfect note. It all comes down to trying out various combinations. You will know that you will hit the right combination the moment the ratio starts to feel off. Then you take a step back and go with the combination that felt right, the one before.
Again, there is no rulebook here. Sometimes you may spend just a few hours and a dozen or so combinations before you hit the right one. While other times, it will take days, weeks, even months to make the right combo.
In some cases, winemakers can make a couple of mixtures and will let them sit before making the final call.
Why Some Wines are Blended, and Some aren’t?
The simple explanation of why some wines are not blended is because they got all the characters they need. Adding another wine, even in a tiny percentage, can only spoil it. On the other hand, some wines are getting much better with the right addition.
Typically, most wine blends are red. However, there are several whites based on varieties that are native to southern Rhone and Bordeaux. There isn’t a particular reason why whites are not blended as often as whites. It all comes down to preferences, tastes, and the need to add certain features to a particular wine.
There isn’t a fixed timeline that determines when it is the best time to mix wines. Most winemakers make the mix in steel tanks. High-cost blends are typically aged in oak, while that’s not the case with low-cost blends. Some winemakers like to blend the wines in an oak barrel one or two weeks before bottling, while others half-way through the aging process. Then some prefer to let the wines ferment together from the beginning to the end. But whatever the method or timeline, the goal is to make the most of everything that the wines possess. Every winery makes that call on their own and is based on what works best for them.
Final thoughts on wine blending
Varieties in wine blends are much like actors. Some of them are superstars, some play supportive roles, while others are the miscellaneous crew. The point is they all need to play together so that the final product can be a successful movie.
Same as actors, wines should blend nicely and balance each other so that we can have an excellent blend. A blend can be at the same time subtle and sophisticated, and that’s what makes them great.
The biggest trick is to have the patience, the skill, and the attitude to hit the right combination. The masters of this trade don’t get Oscars, but they get recognitions and high praises within the wine community. For most of them, those praises are worth more than all the Oscars in the world.