Many people who come in the store look for specific varietals of wine…Cabernet, Chardonnay, etc. However, many wines are blends of two or more different grapes. The different grapes contribute different aspects to the flavor profile of the wine. One grape may add structure, another may supply dark fruits, and another may add spice. As a result, the wines can be remarkably complex and flavorful.
Many countries in Europe label their wines by the region where they are grown (Bordeaux, Chateauneuf du Pape) rather than the type of grape in the bottle, and these are very often blends of several grapes.
Bordeaux wines can contain up to five specific grapes—Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec. (Carmenere is also allowed, but almost never used). These wines tend to be dry, structured, and complex. Although some can cost over $1000.00 a bottle, many wonderful examples exist in the $10.00 to $20.00 range. Look for Chateau Vrai Caillou, Terrefort Lescalle and St. Elme.
Meritage (rhymes with “heritage”) is an American wine that contains a combination of the same grapes found in Bordeaux wines. Claret is yet another term for the same type of wine. Newton, Rodney Strong, and Franciscan are a few to look for. Lyeth makes a nice one for under $15.00.
Up to nine different grapes an be used in Chateauneuf du Pape, though Grenache, Syrah, and Mouvedre are the most common. These are complex age-worthy wines and can be very expensive. If you have $80.00 or $90.00 to spend, look for Mas de Boislauzon Quet or Janasse Chaupin from the 2010 vintage. These are magnificent wines. For $30.00 you can drink a very nice example from Barrot. Chateauneuf du Pape is in the southern Rhone. Lots of wonderful inexpensive wines from the various villages that comprise the area nestled at the foothills of the mountains are available. They are usually blends of Grenache and Syrah with either Mouvedre, Carignan, or Cinsault added to the mix. They are great wines for a great price. Look for Boisson Cairanne, Chateau Pesquie, and Gassier Cercius, all under $20.00 and wonderful.
The blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mouvedre has made its way from the Rhone Valley to Australia and the U.S. and has become so popular that they are referred to as “GSM” blends. John Duval’s Plexus and Two Hands Brave Faces are beautiful examples from “Down Under,” Stump Jump is a great example at a cheaper price.
In addition to the GSM formula, California produces many blends, combining Syrah, Merlot, Zinfandel, Petit Sirah, Tempranillo, Cinsault, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mourvedre, Grenache, Sangiovese, and Barbera—sometimes up to six or more in one wine. I like to call these “kitchen sink “ wines. Great examples are Orin Swift’s Prisoner at $40.00 and a much cheaper wine called The Culprit 2010 at $15.00.
Blended wines offer wonderful complexity and big flavors, often for great prices. Give them a try!