Red Blends

  • Parents & Origin: Blend of red grapes (e.g. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot)
  • Grape: Small, spherical, red skin
  • Flavors: Red fruit, black fruit, spice, earth, and many others
  • Notable Regions: Worldwide

The History of Red Blends

Red wine has been prevalent since prehistory (the period before written records) as winemaking originated and spread throughout the world. In this case, “red blend” refers to any red wine that contains more than one red grape variety in the final product, though certain red blends can have their designation as varietal wines despite comprising multiple grapes.

For much of the history of European wine, red blends were, in fact, more common than single varietals, as winemaking was typically region-centric and featured grapes consolidated from vineyards across a given area. One famous example of this practice is the Bordeaux blend, which originated in the 18th or 19th century and usually comprises Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc.

Though prominent red blends such as Bordeaux still remain popular, many red blends have been associated with lower quality due to the assumption that the term indicates cheaper table wines. However, many high-quality wine producers still elect to produce red blends, and these wines can in fact offer many unique and delicious flavors due to the winery’s ability to custom design the profile of their product.

Red Blend Food Pairings

Red blends vary in flavor, body, acidity, and alcohol content, but as a general guideline, they are most likely to pair with richer entrées and meat dishes.

The Best Red Blend Food Pairings

Compared to most white wines, any red wine is bolder and more powerful on the palate, meaning that meat and fuller dishes are ideal. Heavier red blends will go perfectly with steak or lamb, while more moderate red blends can complement meals from pasta to Mexican food.

Food Pairings to Avoid with Red Blends

The range of red blends means that there are very few foods to avoid given the right choice of wine, but as a general rule of thumb, red wines are typically avoided with light dishes such as seafood and salad.

Red Blend Tasting Notes

Red blends are prepared from various red grapes, usually crushed and fermented individually before any blending occurs. Finding the right blend often requires blending trials, where the winemaker tastes the wine and offers suggestions for how to modify the blend. This process is more common with new world blends, whereas traditional blends such as Bordeaux or Chianti can be produced following age-old practices. Aging potential varies, though many high-quality red blends can be aged in oak or bottle. Flavors also vary, though most red blends will have notes of red or black fruit.

Famous Red Blends

Red blends can be made with any combination of grapes, but there are several classic recipes for blends that have stood the test of time. Here are just a few:

  • Red Bordeaux is traditionally a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc, though it sometimes also uses Petit Verdot, Malbec, or Carmenere as well. This French blend is known for its history and sublime quality, offering flavors of licorice, chocolate, black cherry, and plum.
  • Chianti is a famous Italian wine that typically uses a blend of at least 75% Sangiovese grapes, with grapes such as Canniolo, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Cabernet Franc making up the remainder. From Tuscany, it is known for its savory flavors and ability to pair with any Italian dish.
  • Super Tuscan wines come from Tuscany, Italy, and are known as any wine that disobeys Tuscan DOC standards and uses international or unauthorized grapes. These blends can include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sangiovese, and many other grapes.
  • Rioja is a popular Spanish blend that contains 70% Tempranillo grapes, along with Mazuelo, Graciano, and Maturana Tinta grapes. It is known for its flavors of cherry, plum, dill, vanilla, and leather, and it was in fact one of the original wines used to make Sangria.

Red Blends in a Nutshell

Since the dawn of winemaking, producers have been blending red grapes to produce exciting flavors beyond that which can be achieved with a single grape varietal. Often overlooked as cheap and poor tasting, modern wine enthusiasts recognize the potential of a good red blend, whether from a classic recipe or a brand new mixture. It is difficult to generalize red blends due to the immense variation between them, but keep them on your radar as a good blend deserves a place in any connoisseur’s cellar.

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