To this day, many people still view the blending of grape varieties with suspicion, seeing it as second best or as an adulteration. But this is absolutely not the case. Particularly in France, the process of blending or assemblage, is a long-standing tradition.
There are several reasons why wines are blended. First and foremost, some grape varieties produce a wine that is too one-dimensional, in terms of character, on its own. In addition to this, the blending of varieties is used to achieve consistent quality and to produce more balanced wines.
Bordeaux wines are a good example of blended wines. Most red Bordeaux wines are made from combining Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc grapes. Cabernet Sauvignon is characterised by very strong tannins and is therefore often blended with the softer, less tannic Merlot in order to ‘buffer’ its powerful tannin structure, making a more balanced wine. The Cabernet Franc provides a blend with the perfect colour and a spicy aroma.
When it comes to white wines, Sauvignon Blanc has an intense flavour with grassy tones and hints of gooseberry, blackcurrant and kiwi fruit. It’s a classic white variety used in Bordeaux wines, and is often blended with Sémillion, with its flavour still apparent even when it makes up the smaller proportion of the assemblage. Although Sémillion is subtler in terms of flavour, it adds good structure and, especially, mineral tones to the wine. The two grape varieties balance each other well and together produce white wines with long shelf lives.
Conditions dictate flavour
Some companies use not only blending but also wood chips, to maintain a consistent taste over the years. However, true wine connoisseurs know that the quality of the wine doesn’t just depend on the cuvée but more importantly, it is dependent upon the annually fluctuating conditions of rainfall, sunshine and temperature. High-quality wine is an entirely natural product, subject to local climatic variations, and so it is always worth trying different wines produced by the same vineyard.