Decoding Red Blend Wines
Inexpensive wines labeled “red blend” are a new twist on a tradition that goes back centuries, F&W's Megan Krigbaum reports.
The Benefits of the Blend
Reds made with a blend of grapes, like Bordeaux, are some of the most highly regarded, brilliant and expensive wines in the world, much greater than the sum of their parts. But not all red blends are pricey; even in Bordeaux, winemakers are producing terrific bottles that express terroir for under $20. Most recently, winemakers around the world, like Ménage à Trois in California and Veramonte in Chile, have created a superpopular new category simply labeled “red blend,” made with unidentified grapes from unspecified regions. This might seem mysterious, but it helps wineries keep prices at $10 or less by letting them source fruit from wherever it’s cheap and good.
World's Most Famous Red Blends
The blending perfected in the regions below is winemaking at its best.
Winemakers in this southern Rhône region of France use up to 13 different grape varieties in their famously dense and spicy wines.
By blending Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon with varying amounts of Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, winemakers create serious reds that age well.
Invented in the 1970s, Super-Tuscans can be made with international grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. They tend to be massive wines.
4. Napa Valley
Inspired by Bordeaux blends, Napa Valley winemakers have been adding small amounts of other grapes (like Merlot) to their Cabernets since the late 1960s.
Bottles to Try
Terrific red blends with great terroir.
NV Marietta Cellars Lot Number 62 Old Vine Red ($14)
Inspired by Old World blends, the Sonoma-based Bilbro family changes the grapes in this Zinfandel-based red every year. This, their 62nd iteration, is wonderfully juicy and peppery.
2011 Capezzana Barco Reale di Carmignano ($15)
Made with grapes from a property once owned by the Medicis, this earthy wine combines Tuscany’s Sangiovese grape with a little Cabernet, plus Canaiolo for deeper color.
2011 Château Saint Julian Bordeaux Supérieur ($16)
From the value-driven Entre-Deux-Mers area, this spiced, cigar-box-scented Bordeaux is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.