Some of the world's most famous wines are blends of different grapes: Bordeaux (both red and white), Chianti, Rioja, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Côtes-du-Rhône. While it can be hard to discern the different grapes in a well-made blended wine, each brings something to the mix.
Benefits of Blending In a classic Bordeaux red wine, Cabernet Sauvignon contributes body and tannin, Merlot roundness and Cabernet Franc color and aroma. Many wines from California and other New World regions are blends not only of different grapes but also of grapes from various vineyards. But certain varieties, such as Pinot Noir, Riesling and Gewürztraminer, are rarely blended with others.
American Blends Many American wines are actually blends, even though their labels may carry a single grape name. That's permitted if the grape makes up at least 75 percent of the blend. Many bottles labeled Merlot, for instance, are 25 percent Cabernet.
10 TOP BOTTLES
1998 Iron Horse Classic Brut ($28) This California sparkling wine is made by the Champagne method with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Though full-bodied and creamy, it's still marked by a lively and refreshing acidity.
2001 Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Zind ($35) Made from a blend of Pinot Auxerrois (a grape native to Alsace), Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc, this white comes from one of Alsace's top wineries. It's pleasingly tart yet still juicy.
2002 Folie à Deux Ménage à Trois Blanc ($15) This California white is a gorgeous blend of Chardonnay and Muscat Canelli with a touch of Chenin Blanc. The Chardonnay adds roundness, the Muscat a musky melon note and the Chenin Blanc a bit of honeydew character.
2002 Solorosa ($15) Wine writer and winemaker Jeff Morgan and partner Daniel Moore produce a deep-colored, dry rosé in Sonoma that's a blend of Sangiovese, Merlot and Syrah. Fleshy and ripe, it's a highly versatile food wine.
2001 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Artemis ($45) A Cabernet-Merlot blend from one of Napa's best-known producers, this elegant red is made in part from grapes grown in the famous Fay vineyard.
2001 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape ($85) Possibly the wine that blends the greatest variety of grapes, Beaucastel uses 13 typesall those allowed by law in this part of the Rhône. The result is an astonishingly harmonious and balanced wine.
1999 Château Gruaud Larose ($60) Bordeaux from 1999 have a reputation for being delicious in their youth, and this grand cru from St-Julienmarked by mouthwatering flavors of spicy black plumsis no exception.
2000 Cune Viña Real Crianza ($15) This four-grape Spanish blend comes from one of Rioja's most traditional producers. It's a lightly aged, fruit-forward red with all the zest and piquancy of a young wine.
2000 Nozzole Chianti Classico Riserva ($22) Sangiovese blended with four other grapes, red and white (yes, that's legal), this is one of the most polished Chiantis of the vintage.
2001 Ridge Buchignani Ranch Zinfandel ($24) This classic Sonoma blend of old-vine Zinfandel, Carignane and Petite Sirah is sold exclusively by the winery. Though burly and fairly high in alcohol (14 percent plus), it's incredibly silky and luscious.