There has been a recent trend towards wine blends – wines that are comprised of two or more different grape varieties.
It’s not actually a trend, however – not for a good chunk of the winemaking world. In every place except the New World regions, blends aren’t thought of in terms of their individual grape varieties. Rather, the wines are understood regionally. In France, people don’t open a bottle of Bordeaux and think, “Ah yes, this is a nice Cab-Merlot blend.” Bordeaux is simply Bordeaux. The focus is on other factors like the estate, sub-region and vintage.
Moreover, way more wines are blends than you might think. Even though a bottle may only have a single grape named on the label, many regions allow a certain percentage of another grape. In British Columbia, a single varietal wine may contain up to 15 per cent of another grape variety.
The New World learned about wine through grape varieties because we didn’t have centuries of winemaking history. Most New World vineyards are less than 100 years old, so that’s why you’ll commonly find dozens of different grapes growing side-by-side. The emphasis on grape variety has become so predominant for such a huge percentage of the international market that more and more Old World producers are starting to name grape varieties on their labels.
Grape varieties have much to teach us, certainly. But, at some point, you have to move past this level of understanding and gain a more holistic understanding of wine in terms of its place.
In essence, it means thinking like the locals: relating to wine the way people in Old World regions have related to wine for centuries.
This article appears in the February 2018 issue of Avenue Edmonton.