E Wine of the Week, By Bruce Cochran

Back to the basics
Hello Everyone,
This week we’ll wrap up our look at blends, both new and classic.  After seeing the differences that climate can have on the same grape variety grown in different places, and new blends from old places giving us new bargains to try, this week we’ll go back to the basics with two classic grape blends that have greatly influenced the world of wine.

I’ll be in Italy for most of April, and because of this we’ll have only three EWine columns in April.

If you’re in central Arkansas on Wednesday, that’s the date for a very special wine dinner at the lovely Ayedelotte’s in North Little Rock. Five courses, five wines, $65 a person.  Many of the components for the menu will be house made from scratch by Chefs Matt Hartley and Dale Filson. For the menu, wine list and reservation information go to brucecochran.com.

Try a new wine this week!

Classic California Blends

This month we’re talking about some of the new blends being created by winemakers in California. So far we’ve been through vineyard blends from the same region, vineyard blends from entirely different regions and some of the newer blends from different types of grape varieties. Different climates can give varied styles to the same grape variety, and blending different types of grapes together can produce complex flavors much like cooking.

We’ll wrap it up now with a look at two classic grape blends that have been so successful they remain popular generations after they were first conceived.

When it comes to blending, we should first tip our hats to the French. While it’s not done in every French region, two areas in particular have come up with classic grape blends that have influenced winemaking around the world. Both came from the south.

Southeastern France, along the Rhone River near Provence, is the home of the syrah grape.  Made even more famous as the shiraz grape of Australia, syrah producers today routinely blend in some grenache, and sometimes mourvedre, and occasionally even cinsault and counoise. This “Rhone blend” or “Mediterranean blend” has become so popular around the world that it might now best be called an “International blend.”
Syrah’s dark color and flavors of berries and sometimes pepper seems to marry well with the red-fruit flavors of grenache. Grenache is less tannic and puckery in its youth, and this adds to the drinkability and food-friendliness of the blend.

The names “Meritage” in California and “Claret” in Britain both refer to red wines blended from what are called “Bordeaux varietals” of which cabernet sauvignon and merlot are the most important.

Bordeaux is the southwestern French city and surrounding wine region where these grapes came from. It’s best known for names like Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, Chateau Mouton-Rothschild and Chateau Margaux. Merlot softens the cabernet, while cabernet adds structure and power to merlot. Cabernet franc is an earlier ripening cousin of cabernet sauvignon, and adds complexity to the blend.

Two other grapes are allowed in Bordeaux. Malbec, now better known in Argentina, and petit verdot, are sometimes added in small amounts for color and aroma.

Categories: Legacy Archive