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New Blending Makes for the Perfect Mix

By: Fred Tasker

“It used to be that when winemakers blended two or more grapes into a wine, it was so the strengths of one could make up for the weaknesses of the others. France’s Bordeaux red had cabernet sauvignon for flavor and structure, malbec for its inky color, merlot for sweet and fleshy fruit.

In Italy, the original 1850s recipe for Chianti had red sangiovese and canaiolo grapes softened with a bit of malvasia bianca, a white grape. Cynics said it was because wine was kept poorly in those days, and as the white malvasia darkened with oxidation, it made up for the increasing paleness of the equally oxidizing red grapes. No longer. With modern clonal vine selection, pruning, computerized fermentation and such, cabernet sauvignon, sangiovese and other grapes can make perfectly superb wines all by themselves. So when winemakers blend — and blend they still do, in spades — it’s to see what wondrous new flavors they can create.

In other words, they’re stroking their egos. It must be fun to be a winemaker. Still, we’re the beneficiaries, so who’s complaining? Here are some tasty red blends to illustrate the point:

Highly recommended:
2010 Big House Red, Big House Winery, California: Created by mad wine genius Randall Grahm, it now is overseen by winemaker Georgetta Dane. She calls herself the warden, since the winery gets its name from its proximity to the Soledad State Correctional Facility. Given this eccentricity, it’s no surprise that the wine is an out-of-control blend of petite sirah, tempranillo, syrah, grenache, malbec, mourvedre, nebbiolo, tannat, souzao, aglianico, barbera, zinfandel, petite verdot, cabernet franc, charbono, nero d’Avola, sangiovese, sagrantino and “other esoteric reds.” It’s soft, dark and full of powerful dark berry flavors and spice. At $10 a bottle, it’s not even a dollar per grape.

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