Regular Bristol Wine Blog readers will know I often refer to “blends” – a phrase that usually describes a wine made from more than one grape variety. The blend might be just Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot but it could involve the 13 different varieties allowed in Châteauneuf du Pape. Both can be described as blends. Confusingly, it might also refer to blends of the same grape from different vineyards.
But have you ever thought about what is involved in blending? I had the chance to find out recently when I went to an event at Three Choirs vineyard in Gloucestershire organised by the Wine Society. After a brief look over the vineyard and through the winery, led by winemaker, Martin Fowke, the 30 of us were divided into teams and set to work.
Three Choirs grows an assortment of different grape varieties and 3 – Reichensteiner, Phoenix and Madeline Angevine – were chosen for our task which was to blend the varieties in proportions of our choosing to make an enjoyable dry white wine. And, of course, if you’re selling wine, price is important so, to make things more realistic, ‘values’ were put on each variety and we were restricted in our budget.
We started by tasting wines produced from each of the individual varieties to assess their character – the Reichensteiner’s appley freshness, the Phoenix’s leafiness and the more neutral Madeline Angevine – and then began blending. My initial suggestion, though an attractive wine, was way over our ‘budget’ – why was my wife not surprised at this, I wonder?! After a couple more attempts – a little more of this, a little less of that – we finally came up with something that we were happy with – and that costed in.
At the lunch that followed, we had a chance to taste, not only our own blend, but that of one of the other teams who, using the same basic ingredients, had produced an entirely different wine. When we were also offered Three Choirs own blend, we quickly decided that Martin Fowke’s job as winemaker was not under immediate threat!
Blending: it all sounded so easy, by, only by trying it, have I appreciated the skill and knowledge that goes into making a consistent and appealing wine.