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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Blending wines. Meritage, etc.

Europe's mostly archaic wine laws remove a lot of the creativity and potential for their wines. In the U.S. we do a bit of this, too. One key problem (it's not just legal, it's marketing too) is to call a wine a Cabernet, for instance, means 75% of the juice in the bottle must be Cab. 

I'm not saying this is a bad law, but it seems to be stifling blends in this country. In general, I love blends. They are so much more interesting. After many, many years of CA Cabernet I'm bored. Give me some Merlot, some Malbec, hell even some Cabernet Franc in there! Cab and Syrah seem to be made for each other.

And not just with Cabernet. How about Zinfandel with Barbera and/or Sangiovese? I've had some odd-ball blends. How about Pinot and Syrah or Barbera and Pinot?

There's the guy that makes a 50/50 Zinfandel and Barbera blend he calls Zinberra because he said, "Barfandel didn't sell." 

Rhone blends... yum! These are starting to show up more in the Sierra foothills wineries (Amador, El Dorado) and they are good. Easy to drink and interesting at the same time--a combination that can be hard to find.

There was a plan to help the popularity of blends in the U.S. Twenty years ago a group came up with "Meritage" for blends because otherwise you are stuck with White or Red Table Wine which means cheap in the U.S. Meritage sounds expensive. It also didn't take off. First, a lot of people can't pronounce it (rhymes with heritage). Second, the group charges to use "their" name, Meritage. So lots of wineries make up their own names to signify a blend. Third, it sets rules around Bordeaux-style blends only (it's limiting).

There's actually a White Meritage, also, made up of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and some other obscure grape. If you've never had a Sauv Blanc/Semillon blend give it a try (if you can ever find one). They're not as austere as typical Sauv Blancs.

This post originally published 2/12/2009