I recently participated in a blending trial tasting, during which, I realized how often I might overlook the importance that blending plays in making wine. When it comes to winemaking, the aspect of blending truly is an art-form, not unlike a chef putting together a unique list of ingredients, or a designer adding layers, texture, and color, all in hopes of creating the perfect end product.
Typically we think of wine in terms of specific grape varieties, such as Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon, however, just about all of the - give or take - 36 billion bottles of wine that are produced each year, are actually a blend. When I say blend, this can mean either a mixture of different grape varietals, or a blend of the same varietals from different vineyards. It also can mean different picking areas or possibly even barrels of wine made from that same vineyard.
Wines undergo dramatic changes when blended. It is not as simple as just adding more of one wine to pair with the qualities of another wine. Once blended, the final wine takes on a completely new personality, reminiscent of the parts, but not necessarily an equal blend of the characteristics of the two wines on their own.
Blending is an extraordinarily useful winemaking tool. The winemaker can ascertain what characteristics are being exhibited in each barrel or from each vineyard and combine the elements to enhance, or subdue, flavors, textures, and tannins. Not to mention, the new level of complexity that can be achieved. I love having tasted all the wines blind, then seeing which one was the ‘control’ and what the other blends were. It is such a special process in wine that is rarely spoken about.
Further, I always tend to think of winemakers as different types of artists, some are abstract, while some are impressionistic and so on. The bottom line is they all have their own style and personality, which is reflected in their wines, and much of this can be due to the art of blending. Best of all, like your favorite piece of art, the true beauty of the blend, contains that little touch of mystery...never really knowing why you are drawn to it, and always leaving you wanting more.