Some descriptors do not need too much thought. It might be natural to assume that a red blend wine is one of them — or is it?
A red blend wine is simply a wine made using a blend of different types of wine made from red grapes. Many casual wine drinkers describe a red blend as if it were a Pinot Noir or a Merlot.
The problem with doing this is there is no trait specific enough to unify all red blend wines under a certain type of wine.
How to Assess a Blended Red Wine
Each red blend is distinctive by one broad characteristic of being composed of a single category, but there are various types of red blends. Rather than comparing a red blend to a type of wine, like Pinot Noir, it is more accurate to compare it to a category, like red wine itself. Because it is such an encompassing term, saying that you enjoy a red blend means next to nothing.
Winemakers are ahead of us. There are even blends on the market that are not explicitly labeled as blends. As long as 75% of the mixture is a single type of grape, it is more than acceptable for a winery to call it by the name of the base grape.
If you love red blends, you can look at your next purchase as a win-win. Wine blends are beneficial to wineries too. If a small bit of the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes were spoiled for one reason or another, then the option to supplement that small bit of missing product with a similar grape variety allows the winery to make the full batch that was intended. Even for white wine as well as red wine varieties, combining elements of different types can allow winemakers to alter the characteristics of a wine to be more palatable and unique to a brand. If a Pinot Grigio has an acidity level a little too high, a winemaker can use a dry variety to balance the flavor.
The designer wine known as red blends can taste any range of ways. A winemaker can experiment with as little as two varieties to hundreds of varieties, blending the flavors and perfecting the way the varieties come together for a tasting experience unique to their brand. Most blends can be characterized by the kind of grapes that are in the mixture, by the location of the winery, or by the company brand.
A Bordeaux blend is a mixture of several Bordeaux grapes and is likely the kind of blend you will be drinking if you opt for a red blend wine made in the United States. Blends of several different Bordeaux grapes make up many of the popular red blends typically made in California and Washington in the United States. It is not uncommon to find a wine labeled as a Bordeaux that is made up of a red wine blend. Different brands still create their own variations. The Wine Group might sound familiar because it is the company behind Franzia. The Wine Group makes its very own red blend. A bottle known as The Witching Hour is a Bordeaux blend that exudes notes of dark fruit and espresso.
Rhône Valley Blended Wine
Located in one of the historic wine countries, Rhône Valley is famous for its Syrah as well as Grenache, Mourvèdre, and many other red wines native to this historical hub for wine production. The Châteauneuf-du-Pape, which translates as “the Pope’s new castle,” is the claim to fame red blend for this region of Southern France. For Châteauneuf-du-Pape to be considered as such, the wine must be made up of any combination of reds from the 18 acceptable varieties of grape and contain an alcohol by volume of roughly 14%. The taste of the Rhône Valley Châteauneuf-du-Pape is quite variable. Fruity notes can be reminiscent of raspberry or blueberry. Earthy flavors can resemble tobacco or vanilla. Expect the unexpected. The region of Rhône Valley is home to several other blends. In fact, red blends are more common than single varietals made in the region.
Port Wine Blends
Some of the most common red grapes from Portugal are Touriga Nacional, Tempranillo, Jaen, Baga, and Alicante Bouschet. Of the 248 varieties of red grapes native to Portugal, there is no telling which mixture will make up Portugese red blend. This is especially true for most winemakers in Douro Valley. Most wine enthusiasts pair their dessert with a sweet red blend known as port wine, or “vinho de Porto” in Portugal. The excitement of drinking port wine comes from the mystery of the combined contents. Centuries of tradition and several subsequent laws ensure that wine made in Douro Valley is curated with grape varieties even unknown to the winemaker. Beware of labels. Like “Champagne” is a title reserved for a white sparkling wine from a specific region of France, the title “port wine” is a label reserved for red blends from a specific region of Portugal. However, the label “port” is technically legal to place on any bottle. A “port” might not be from Portugal, but a “port wine” is from Portugal.
You Can Blend Any Type of Wine From Anywhere Too
The big three red blend wine countries are listed above. However, red blends are made all around the globe.
Like any broad category, red blends vary in taste, body, texture and acidity, and tannins. Any red wine can have any characteristic, which means that there is a red blend for every wine drinker.
Whether you prefer a dry Washington or California Bordeaux blend or sweet port wine from the famous Douro Valley, there is a red blend for you.