You've heard of white wine, you've heard of red wine, you've heard of rose. Here's a curveball: what's a red blend wine? Didn't see that coming, did you? Or maybe you did; we kind of gave it away with the title of the article, didn't we. Regardless if you did or didn't see this coming, we're going to discuss red blend wine.
What Is a Red Blend?
A red blend wine is essentially a domestic wine that is not made from a specific grape variety. Today, red blends now sell more by the volume than other red wines, such as Pinot Noir or Merlot, and are well on their way to becoming more popular than even Cabernet Sauvignon. Honestly, we're rooting for the underdog here!
The red blend wine is a strange category. Mainly because most red wines are and have always been red blend wines. Plus, under California law, wines only have to include or show 75 percent of the grape variety on the label, which if you can do basic math, you know that means twenty-five percent of the grape variety is unaccounted for.
The entire purpose of red blend wines is to blend different grapes to create a wine with more complexity in flavor and texture. Some blended wine from other vintages to balance out the flavor characteristics. While we are talking about red blend wines today, there are also white blend wines. In fact, some vintners blend whites and reds to create the best possible combination of aromas and flavors.
While there is an unlimited amount of ways that red blend wines can be made, there are two ways vintners make red blend wines. These are vintage wine blends and non-vintage blends. Vintage blends are different grapes grown in the same year or vintage. Non-vintage blends, blend grapes from different vintages with the intent of balancing flavors, tannins, and other wine characteristics. It is easy to identify these wines because they are labeled NV (aka non-vintage) with no year listed on the label. This practice is most common in ports and sparkling wines; however, other winemakers can utilize this technique.
The History of Red Blends
Red wine has been around since basically the beginning of time. We're talking before written records, before appellations and Amarone. Before Carignan and Chardonnay. So things that are alluded to in that history book you have on your shelf from third grade. For most of European wine history, red blends were more prevalent than single varietals. This is because winemaking was region-centric and, therefore, featured grapes combined from vineyards in a given area.
Although prominent red blends such as Bordeaux are very popular to this day, most red blends are perceived as being associated with a lower quality. The assumption is that red blend means cheap, and most people stick their noses up at such a thing. On the contrary, many high-end and high-quality wine producers still choose on their own accord to produce red blends. In fact, these red blend wines offer many unique and distinctive flavors due to the winery's ability to custom design the entire profile of their product.
Famous Red Blends
There are quite a few extremely well-known and popular red blend wines that you might not even realize are red wine blends. In California, the Cabernet-Syrah-Zinfandel blend is very popular. Some popular red blends include Red Bordeaux, Chianti, Super Tuscan, and Rioja.
Red Bordeaux: this red blend wine is mostly made from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. Sometimes, the blend also uses Petit Verdot, Malbec, or Carmenere, but the former combination is more traditional. Red Bordeaux is a French blend rich with history and known for its sublime quality that offers licorice, chocolate, black cherry, and plum flavors.
Chianti: this popular table wine typically uses a blend of seventy-five percent Sangiovese grapes and then, for the remainder, uses grapes such as Canniolo, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Cabernet Franc. This Tuscany wine is well-known and appreciated for its savory flavors and ability to pair with pretty much any delicious Italian dish.
Super Tuscan: Like Chianti, these wines also come from Tuscany, Italy. However, they differ because they are wines that disobey Tuscan DOC standards by using international or unauthorized grapes. These blends can use a wide variety of grapes but mainly include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, or Sangiovese grapes.
Rioja: this popular Spanish blend contains seventy percent tempranillo grapes, along with Mazuelo, Graciano, and Maturana Tinta grapes. Rioja is known for its cherry, plum, dill, vanilla, and leather flavors. Historically, it is known as one of the original wines used to make Sangria.
How to Choose a Red Blend
Not surprisingly, winemakers are becoming extremely innovative in their wine blending techniques. Whether you're in the Napa Valley, Argentina, or Toscana, modern winemakers often create blends from grapes not traditionally combined, creating new and exciting flavors and aromas.
Trying a red blend wine is an excellent way for a wine indulger to expand their knowledge and taste buds. Before trying a new red blend wine, do your research. Discover what grapes went into the specific blend, understand the winemaker's steps during the process, particularly the aging process, and read reviews about the blend. As you start to explore red blend wines, you will begin to learn more about different grapes' qualities and how they work together to create tastes and characteristics you appreciate. If you're excited to try a red blend, we say jump into the deep end and taste around!
The Best Red Blend Food Pairings
Hungry to give red blend wine a try? We get it. And of course, knowing what to eat with your wine is extremely important. When compared to white wines, red blend wines are bolder and more powerful. Red blends vary significantly in flavor, body, acidity, and alcohol content. However, they are most commonly best enjoyed with more decadent main dishes and meat dishes. Heavier red blend wines like the Apothic Red Blend taste incredible with steak or lamb, while moderate red blends like the 2017 Casa Santos Lima Red Blend Portugal can be the perfect complement to pasta and Mexican foods. Avoid enjoying light dishes like seafood and salad with red blend wines.