Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Blending Game - Part 1: 6 Reds Blended and Tasted

I’m not sure what to call this approach to Wine Tasting… if you’ve heard of it before let me know. Frankly I avoid tastings where there’s a lot of swirling, sniffing, slurping, and spitting. It’s not these activities per se that bother me. They’re to be expected as part of formal wine tasting protocol, however, they usually come with someone pontificating about the exotic aromas, those luxuriant textures or the complex layering. The bottom line is: Do You Like it? Yes/No - then let’s get on with sipping. Finding an alternative way to enjoy the wine experience in a socially entertaining way is challenging. One attempt is the theme of this entry:

The majority of wines are blends of various grapes: Bordeaux with Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon/Cab Franc and/or Malbec, the popular GSM - Grenache/Shiraz/Mourvèdre - in any combination thereof, Shiraz/Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon, Niagara’s Riesling/Gewurztraminer, etc., etc. Any combination, either traditional or innovative, attracts a market based on one thing: do enough consumers buy it?

With that said… this is an experiment in tasting by blending - reds are first up. After purchasing a few single variety wines as well as some blended wines (locally) I’ll mix the single varieties and rate the results. I’ll then compare our ‘custom blend’ to the ‘off-the-shelf’ blended wine. I won’t be attempting Bordeaux combinations and a Chateauneuf du Pape would simply be impossible.

For each Blend I will try to source wines from the same country, vintner, region, vintage and price point. I know I’ll have to compromise on some combinations because of price and availability. When tasted the wines will appear in bold. ...May not make sense (purists will turn over...) - hopefully it’ll be fun.  

Cheers, Ww 


It was fun! I often had four or five wines on the go which proved tempting given my appetite for wines. But I claim this built self control. (HA!) There were some unanticipated conclusions:
  • Individual varietals for each blend focussed my attention on their unique characteristics. When it came to tasting the blends I was more aware of how each contributed to the whole.
  • Even with a low percentage the sharing of textures and flavours by each varietal had a significant influence.
  • I now can infer that a 15% content, as in the VQA regulation, of out-of-vineyard or out-of-subappellation grapes can either benefit or severally compromise a VQA product. A winemaker must use a lot of discretion when blending even low levels of available grapes. In the end good grapes make good wine and the resultant blends are good.
  • Not surprisingly, making up volume by combining grapes indiscriminately, even the same variety, is more likely to lower the quality of an otherwise good blending approach.
  • Blending can match wines for specific occasions or foods and certainly has proven its worth to the palate. 
Blend 1: 63% Shiraz, 29% Mourvèdre, 8% Grenache, 93
This blend had a lot going for it with two of the tastings highly rated. I had finished the d’Arenberg Footbolt Shiraz and fell back to the Kilikanoon altho’ both were rated 88. This blend is crimson so deep it has become opaque to sight. The viscosity is not quite as dense as the grenache and mourvèdre by themselves and the aroma is more subdued but for the addition of a slight pepper. The flavours lack a clear varietal distinction although overall is extremely appealing - leans to a full-bodied Rhone. Velvety smooth, fine tannins, soft tartness and a mellowing oak treatment produce a sipper for an evening. Pairing with prime rib or bacon wrapped filet mignon would be suitable… anything considered a special grilled or roasted dinner.
  • Guardian Peak ‘The Kalahari Lion’ SMG 2005, 90-1 -- V, Stellenbosch, South Africa, #083972 $22.95
  • Kilikanoon ‘The Lackey’ Shiraz 2005, 88-1 -- Penwortham, Australia, 15.0% XD, #005199 $17.95
  • d’Arenberg ‘The TwentyEight Road’ Mourvèdre 2005, 96-3 -- V, McLaren Vale, Australia, #677617 $29.95
  • Rosenvale Estate Grenache 2005, 96-3 -- V, Barossa Valley, Australia, #059881 $21.95
Blend 2: 50% Shiraz, 50% Grenache, 92
Very deep ruby with warm aromas of ripe black berries sprinkled lightly with white pepper. Velvety smooth with layers of fine tannins, lip smacking black fruit and a smidge of sweetness and tang. Full-bodied and bursting with luscious fruit starts a long finish making this a pleasurable sipper. Have by itself or with sirloin/ onion/ sweet pepper kebobs or a grilled pepper steak.
  • d'Arenberg ‘d’Arry’s Original’ Shiraz Grenache 2005, 92-2 -- V, McLaren Vale, Australia, #942904 $19.95
  • Kilikanoon ‘The Lackey’ Shiraz 2005, 88-1 -- Penwortham, Australia, 15.0% XD, #005199 $17.95
  • Rosenvale Estate Grenache 2005, 96-3 -- V, Barossa Valley, Australia, #059881 $21.95
Blend 3: 80% Syrah, 20% Grenache, Ww94
This has a soft berry nose with some tangy smoke but politely so. The colour is deep purple leaning toward a mauve tint and having respectable legs. Bright and luscious with a long berry, almost rasp-, follow through then leaving the buds with a clean fresh fruit taste, not as drying as with the Syrah, and a slight mint. A sociable sipper that could become a quaffer except for the alcohol levels (15.0 & 15.5%). Have with nibbles: a tray of strong cheese or pepperoni anchovy pizza slices or pair with anything that is a grilled or roasted beef entrée. A super blend from individually super varietals.
  • Chateau de Treviac Corbières 2006, 89-2 -- V, Languedoc, France, #670505 $14.95
  • Ninquén Antu Syrah 2006, 94-3 -- V, Colchagua Valley, Chile, #675371 $15.95
  • Rosenvale Estate Grenache 2005, 96-3 -- V, Barossa Valley, Australia, #059881 $21.95
Blend 4: 75% Grenache, 25% Shiraz, 92
A deep ruby with a garnet cast and aromas of subdued blackberries and bramble. The first sip is silky with some cranberry in mostly a black berry blending. Full-bodied with some tang along with an earthy combination of brambles and black fruit. Finishes long, full in the mouth with the black fruit leading the way now with a woody ending. An interesting sipper for any crowd, also have with beans and bacon, a veal steak or grilled Italian hot or sweet sausage.
  • Jeanneret ‘Grace & Favour’ Grenache Shiraz 2005, 91-2 -- O, Clare Valley, Australia, #B&W Wines $23.70
  • Rosenvale Estate Grenache 2005, 96-3 -- V, Barossa Valley, Australia, #059881 $21.95
  • Kilikanoon ‘The Lackey’ Shiraz 2005, 88-1 -- Penwortham, Australia, 15.0% XD, #005199 $17.95
Blend 5: 90% Shiraz, 10% Viognier, 88
The colour is unchanged from the ‘Footbolt’ but the aroma now has less pepper, just enough to show a spicy edge. Slow legs on the glass with a distinct dryness to a bright flavour of cherries and faint blackberry. Silky more than velvety in texture and finishing dry with a firm tannin, luscious and full of red currants. A bright sipper good with tapas or a cheese, garlic, and tomato bruscetta companion. More Viognier (20%) increased the dryness and lessened the dark fruit in both flavours and the texture of the finish. The excellent 2006 vintage shows in the higher rating for ‘Magpie’.
  • d'Arenberg ‘The Laughing Magpie’ Shiraz Viognier 2006, 94-2 -- V, McLaren Vale, Australia, #936971 $27.95
  • d'Arenberg ‘The Footbolt’ Shiraz 2005, 88 -- V, McLaren Vale, Australia, #984021 $21.95
  • Anakena Single Vineyard Viognier 2007, 90-2 -- V, Rapel Valley, Chile, #045138 $13.95
Blend 6: ?% Cabernet Sauvignon, ?% Merlot (I'll go with 50/50) 85
As you’d expect the colour hasn’t shifted from the deep ruby perhaps leaning toward the violet hue. The aroma has lost most of its ‘stemminess’ from the merlot and gained some soft oak, minimal spice. Smoother, brighter, soft tannins giving some drying of the palate and a mmminty dark fruit with currants making up a larger portion with berries - a nice balance. The finish carries some bright fruit and mint adding a touch of white pepper making this a more interesting sipper. Have with assorted hors d’oeuvres or with roast duck, lamb shank or rich stews. Not outstanding but OK for a moderate wine drinking crowd. A drink now.
  • Wyndham Estate Bin 888 Cabernet Merlot 2004, 79 -- G, South Eastern Australia, #324574 $15.45
  • Wyndham Estate Bin 444 Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, 82 -- G, South Eastern Australia, #110486 $15.45
  • Wyndham Estate Bin 999 Merlot 2005, 84 -- G, South Eastern Australia, #336347 $15.45
(G - General listing, V – Vintages, O - Other)

TASTINGS: (see September 14, 2008 blog)

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