Grape Expectations – May 2012

Grape Expectations

By Robert Kleffel and Noemí Paz

Wine Blending

roberto-y-noemiMost of us, who were raised in the New World, order wines by the varietal name such as Cabernet or Chardonnay. In Europe, wine buyers order by a place name such as Bordeaux knowing that they were buying a blended red wine with Cabernet Sauvignon as the dominate varietal grape.   Traditional European vineyards have been blending for hundreds of years to produce consistency, balance and a great flavor.

Blending wine is not primarily about hiding unfavorable characteristics; instead, it’s all about combining certain varietal strengths to make a better wine—ultimately—than any of the single varietal could be on their own. This is a lofty goal, and it’s one of the foremost tests of a wine-maker’s skill: can the wine-maker create a wine that is better than the sum of its parts?

This requires an in-depth understanding of the distinct characteristics of each varietal. In Bordeaux the allowed blending grapes include cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, petite verdot and malbec. Each of these has specific traits and blending these traits, something great is born. Cabernet and Merlot usually serve as the base on which Bordeaux blends are made. The Cabernet is bold with naturally wild tannins, while the Merlot is typically softer and fruitier, making the wine much more approachable. Combined, the wine they create is more harmonious and better balanced. This basic concept, of combining varietals to create something better than any single varietal, is the basis of modern blended wines. Of course, there are historical reasons for blending as well.

NEW WORLD BLENDING – Unlike Europe, the New World has no legal constraints on blending. The wine masters may use a combination of varietals in any proportion. Modern blending techniques typically take place long after harvest, in a more controlled environment where the winemaker can try a wide variety of different blending options before settling on the final blend. While there have been many wines produced of questionable quality, there are, however, new wine blends that have dramatically increased the number of great new wines for your palate to enjoy. The selected New World blends below have become very popular and enjoyed by many Lakeside wine aficionados.


It is a full bodied red with bright plum, raspberry and blueberry fruit flavors.


Deep and intense with aromas of blackcurrant and ripe berries followed by licorice and chocolate. It has well balanced fruits and tannins with a soft and rich subtle round mouth feel.


A white wine with lively tropical aromas with deliciously creamy and slightly honeyed peach and pear flavors. Refreshingly crisp and made from certified organically grown grapes.


Light bodied, bursting with cherries, red fruits and a hint of spice – great value red from Mendoza Argentina.


It exhibits an aromatic array of poached pear, melon, mineral, and peach leading to a dry wine with exceptional concentration and depth for its humble price


Opaque purple, the nose delivers scents of scorched earth, violets, mineral, blackcurrant, plum, and blueberry. It is silky-textured and layered on the palate with lots of ripe fruit.

Blend Your Own Wines

Experiment by blending your own wines. If you have a Cabernet that has too much tannin for your own taste, add a Merlot to soften the taste – you may love it. Two general rules to remember – don’t add several different wines together or it will taste muddy. Most important, don’t try to improve a poor wine by adding a good wine – that trick never works.

Noemí Paz

Robert Kleffel

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