Blended Wines – Good or Bad?
When I first got into wine, my experience had been with French wines, especially Bordeaux. American wines were still in their adolescence, recovering from one of history’s most devastating social experiments, Prohibition. French wines were regulated by a bevy of rules and regulations founded on 200-300 or more years of experience. This experience was largely by trial and error, but we are talking decades. Since the wine business and wine trade were one of the primary sources of revenue for the country, the French government was deeply involved in the regulation of grape growing, wine production, and wine distribution. Among the many areas that were controlled by the Appellation d’Originale Controle’e of each area in question was grape type. In general, it declares that only grapes grown in that area can be used to produce a wine; that only permissible grape varieties can be used; controls the amount of grape product that can be produced; the minimum and maximal alcohol percentage; controls the vineyard and winemaking practices; and also assesses by analysis and tasting trials to insure quality and conformity. This practice has been copied by most of the wine-producing countries of the world.
During the centuries of this governmental control, experience has dictated to those involved that certain grape varieties taste the best, grow the best, winter the best, and propagate the best in that area. Therein lies the origin of the blending practice, as adding some of another grape(s), either as a field blend or as blending done sometime before bottling, to the final wine to accomplish one or more of several tasks: improve color, improve sweetness, improve taste, improve balance, inprove longevity, improve food compatibility, etc. The ultimate objective of any blending should be to improve the final wine, so that it is better than the sum of its parts. The California wine industry was slow to jump on the blending bandwagon in the 70’s and 80’s, but finally caught on and blending is very common now.
Sadly, in the past few years, I have perceived a growing chorus of wine people, many in the retail trade, that have spoken irreverently about blended wines, ignoring all the majestic wines of the Old World. This is based on the nefarious practice of a few wine producers, who blend inferior wines with their products; mostly to save money and to extend their volumes, I suppose. This practice is to be disavowed as being destructive to the credibility of the entire wine industry. Those responsible for this practice should be called out either in print or by ignoring their products in the marketplace. Ultimately, resolution of this problem will be the latter, but the buyer will have to beware.
The good news is that Chateau Thomas has always blended most of our red wines and occasionally a white, but always with our wine(s) of the same or better quality. If you can’t discern if the wine is a blend of inferior wines, be safe and choose Chateau Thomas wines.