A game spreading fast by word of mouth around dinner parties is wine blending. Nothing formal but when several bottles of different wines are open diners have been making their own blends by pouring a bit from one bottle in their glass and topping up with a dash from another.
If the Pinot Noir is too pale then 5% of deep red Zinfandel adds colour and changes the taste. But is it for the better? That’s a matter of taste, but it’s just half a glass and another blend can be attempted next time. Glasses are passed along the table with people attempting to duplicate successful blends.
Some grapes are sympathetic to others. The winemakers of old knew that. Bordeaux is almost always a blend of varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are the two dominant varieties and together they usually deliver more than the sum of their parts. The primary white grape of Bordeaux is Sauvignon Blanc and again that usually has some Semillon blended in. The new World winemakers have been making red ‘bordeaux blends’ for years, having learned from France, and now we are finding they are making their Sauvignon Blanc more complex by blending.
Just as a musical chord delivers more than a single note and chef’s add their secret ingredients, winemakers also like to fill out flavours by judicious blending. And a varietal wine – that is a wine with just one grape variety named on its label – need only contain 75% of that named variety in the USA and 85% in Europe. So winemakers are free to experiment.
Back at the dinner table blending is being done for the same reasons. Dash in a little perfumed white wine, such as Viognier or Gewürztraminer, to a glass of dull red and see if the resulting drink is lifted by the addition.
If a wine has too much alcohol for you, and some wines can go past 16% alcohol per volume, try mixing with a lower alcohol wine – or even water. In Asia carbonated drinks such as 7-Up and Coca-Cola are seen as suitable mixes for wine. If that floats your boat, OK, but I think you’d be better having the soda on its own.
However blending wines in your glass is, on a very small scale, what winemakers do in their cellars. And, from my experience, they also love making their own blends in wine glasses when they’re informally dining.
Try it and let us know what works for you on our forum.
Peter F May is the author of Marilyn Merlot and the Naked Grape: Odd Wines from Around the World which features more than 100 wine labels and the stories behind them, and PINOTAGE: Behind the Legends of South Africa’s Own Wine which tells the story behind the Pinotage wine and grape, also available for the KIndle.