Wineducation: Tricks of the Trade

There are one or two ticks that I have developed over the years to help me grow, to stave of mediocrity and raise interest levels. Here’s one.


Wine blendingI am about to make a suggestion. To some it might be sacrilege. I don’t mind. Bats need to stick to the night. I have had some great results messing with the way the world is presented to us consumers, and it’s fun.

Mike Veseth writes while discussing Washinton State wines:

One winemaker suggested that as wine drinkers become more educated, they can (should?) move from varietals to blends. Blends open more wine options for adventurous wine drinkers.

Sometimes I open a wine and it’s not quite got what I am looking for. Maybe missing an element like spice or suffering too much from something like being over oaked. Under those circumstances I often mix different wines together. This opens up a whole new world of possibilities. You can crate your own Châteaux Minhang by blending.

Sometimes I open a wine and just don’t like it and have a quick think about what might make it palatable (for me) to suit the circumstances. There could be too little fruit that I would aim to bolster, or an intense tannic dryness which I’d like to temper. An example would be a wine that’s great with food might be overpowering when I drink it on its own and I want to make it softer.

Other times I am feeling a little playful and want to mess with the fates. I am not advocating blending anything expensive, but for the lower cost wines, it really can work a treat.

Mixing a basic Grenache, for example, with a low cost Syrah can have a marvellous result. This is one of the stalwart blends of the southern Rhone, so it’s not like we are leaving the reservation. Châteauneuf Du Pape does it to great effect, with fame and notoriety, to boot.

Sometimes I do stray from the norm. Who say’s Spain’s Tempranillo and France’s Cabernet Sauvignon aren’t natural bedfellows? They do it in California and Spain. In fact, Cabernet Sauvignon is blended with so many other grape varieties, it’s positively a slut. Pop some Cabernet Sauvignon into some ordinary Sangiovese, like a Tuscan might and see if you can’t also make it ‘Super’.

April 4 2013: Tonight I blended Enrico Serafino Barbaresco 2009 with Camino Di Castillo Ribero del Duero. Absolutely stunning! I opened the Barbaresco as the ‘word on the street’ is that 2009 was such a year that will produce generally long lived (ie must wait for them) wines that were going to be fantastic in 5 to 10 years time. I needed to know what it was like today.

So without breathing or decanting I sampled it. I see what they meant: Acidic and slightly tannic. I used my aerator. Better. So that tells me a few hours breathing would overcome most of that issue anyway. And that Serafino (being savvy) has still managed to make a relatively easy drinking version (as that is what his style tends toward), without the long cellaring time.

So then I added, for fun, while I allowed the Barbaresco to breathe a little more) a very big dollop of the aforementioned ‘Camino’. Probably a 75/25% split in favour of Camino. Absolute heaven in a glass. I can’t wait for the peppered, marinating steak to be ready.

May 2013: Vina Sol (Parellada grapes) from Torres with a 15% dribble of Zirnhelt’s Alsacian Gewuztraminer was sublime: like a world cup final between Spain and Germany, though I know, technically, Alsace is in France, it’s almost more German than many parts of Germany, and the wines certainly nod that direction…

Be a wine adventurer too. It’s very satisfying.

Do it.


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