We need a better way to talk about red blends

Thursday, 7 September, 2017
vinepair.com, Courtney Schiessl
“I tend to like a red blend, so what should I drink?” In the past two years, more wine drinkers have begun to use the term “red blend” to indicate their wine preferences in the same way that one might use the words Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir.

But although it’s excellent to be able to verbalize and ask for a preferred style of wine, there’s one problem: A red blend isn’t one single style of wine. In fact, red blend doesn’t really mean anything at all. So why do more and more wine drinkers proclaim that it’s their favorite kind of wine?

When it comes down to it, a red blend is exactly what it sounds like: a red wine that is a blend of more than one grape, rather than being made from a single variety. Notably, this definition does not specify any particular grapes that must be used in the blend, meaning that any grape is fair game, from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to Trousseau and Poulsard. Therein lies the problem: A category of wine cannot reliably indicate one style if it can potentially include any permutation of red grapes.

The rising popularity of the American red blend category likely has something to do with the so-called style that is now commonly associated with red blends. The concept of blending is certainly not foreign to U.S. winemakers, as blends of wines allow producers to combine and complement favorable qualities from several different grape varieties, stretch a more noble grape by blending it with a higher-yielding, easier-to-produce grape, or hide undesirable grapes in minute blending percentages. In fact, California wine law even allows for a single-varietal wine to blend in up to 25 percent of other grapes, meaning that a quarter of your California Cabernet Sauvignon could theoretically not even be Cabernet Sauvignon.

To read more online, click here.

Thomas Davidson

Thomas joined wine.co.za in May 2019 after graduating from Stellenbosch University with a BA in History & Ancient Cultures and completing a certificate in Business Management and Entrepreneurship at the Graduate School in Stellenbosch. He moonlights as a radio presenter at MFM - and has an incredible passion for wine. 
We are delighted to have him on the team.