Here’s a question that may not have occurred to you before: When is a wine like a burrito? The answer, as I recently discovered, becomes clear when you’re making one—specifically, a red blend.
Let me define the term. In the US, a red blend is essentially any domestic wine that’s not made from a specific grape variety. If you’ve ever purchased Apothic Red or Gnarly Head Authentic Black at a supermarket for $15 or so, you’re part of the trend (oddly enough, a $750 bottle of Harlan Estate falls into the category, too). Red blends now sell more, by volume, than either Pinot Noir or Merlot, and they’re on track to become even more popular than Cabernet Sauvignon, the longtime red wine king.
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It’s a strange category, because many, and possibly even most, red wines are and have always been blends. A grand cru Bordeaux made from 100 percent Cabernet is the exception rather than the rule, as are Chiantis made from 100 percent Sangiovese. Also, California law only requires a wine to include 75 percent of the grape variety on the label, which means the bargain Pinot Noir you had at a dinner party the other night might well have been 10 percent Syrah. (Just don’t tell your host.)