Beyond Varietals (Part One)…Blended Red Wine

By now, most of us have become accustomed to selecting and drinking wines labeled with the predominate grape varietal from which they are made. However, it may surprise many people that a majority of the varietal wines they are drinking are actually blends of several grape varieties.

In the United States and other New World wine producing countries, in order for a winemaker to label a bottle “Cabernet Sauvignon,” labeling laws require the producer to use at least 70 – 75 percent of that grape in the final product. As for the other 25 – 30 percent, that decision is left to the winemaker and this is where the real skill in winemaking becomes apparent. In California, for example, the robust and tannic cabernet sauvignon is often blended with the similar yet softer and fruitier merlot grape to add balance and complexity.

Some of the most famous “Old World” wines are also blends whose recipes have been around for hundreds of years. Stringent laws, especially in Italy and France, strictly limit the type of grapes that can be used to produce wines that bear a regional label such a Cotes du Rhone, Bordeaux or Chianti.

The following is a short list of some of the most well known Red Wine blends:



Bordeaux Blends:  In France, the only grapes allowed for use in a bottle labeled “Bordeaux” are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Carmenere, and Cabernet Franc.



Meritage:  Meritage blends are made in the same style and using the same grapes as the Bordeaux blends described above, using grapes from outside Bordeaux, as only wine made there can use the name. Many people want to pronounce this as Mer-a-tahj, but it’s actually Mer-a-tij, a blend of the words merit and heritage.



Chianti:  The famous wine of Tuscany, the original Chianti recipe was created in the 1800s and consisted of 70 percent Sangiovese, 15 percent Canaiolo and 15 percent Malvasia Bianca. In 1995, it became legal to produce a Chianti with 100 percent Sangiovese.



Super Tuscan Blends:  Super Tuscans got their start in the 1970s when Italian wine makers decided to create a new, exciting red wine. Italy has strict wine blending laws and producers of Super Tuscans decided to break the rules and make a new wine blended from grapes of their choosing, typically Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese, Syrah, Merlot, and Petite Verdot.



Côtes du Rhône:  Red and rosé wines are made from Grenache Noir, Syrah, Cinsault, Carignane, Counoise and Mourvèdre grapes varieties. A maximum of 20 percent white varieties may be used in the rosés.



GSM:  Sometimes called “The Holy Trinity” in Australia, GSM is a Côtes du Rhône-style wine blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre.

Red Wine Blends:



Lyeth Red Meritage Sonoma County 2006

Appearance: Dark ruby color

Aroma: Herbal nose with a hint of green pepper

Flavors: Intense dried fruits

Finishing Notes: Tight and focused with fruit notes carrying through

Where To Try: English Inn and The Mission Grille

Where To Buy: Siobhan’s Wine Shop, Main Street Market and Madison Avenue Wine Shop



Marchesi di Frescobaldi Nipozzano Reserva Chianti 2003

Appearance: Light dusty red

Aroma: A touch of berry scented vanilla in the nose

Flavors: Raspberry and blueberry tones

Finishing Notes: Finishes dry with the fruit flavors turning dried as well

Where To Try: English Inn and The Mission Grille

Where To Buy: Madison Avenue Wine Shop and Main Street Market



Deles Côtes du Rhône 2007

Appearance: Light pale cherry red

Aroma: Hints of berry and vanilla on the nose

Flavors: Flavors of mocha, dark berry and vanilla

Finishing Notes: Focused finish, well balanced wine

Where To Try: The Mission Grille

Where To Buy: Top Shelf Gourmet and Serves You Right

Information about “Where to Try” and “Where to Buy” these selected wines was provided by the local wine purveyors and vendors. If you happen to also serve or sell these wines, email [email protected].

WINE:30 is written by Karl Bradley and Jody Wuollett. Karl is the general manager and self-proclaimed “sous” sommelier for the Mission Grille. Former restaurant executive and Door County native Jody is happily under-employed as a Mission Grille food server and a member of the local band Northbound. They are both long time residents and first time contributors to the Peninsula Pulse.

Wine Wiki: Fiasco

A typical Italian style of wine bottle, usually with a round body and bottom, partially or completely covered with a close-fitting straw basket.

First Annual Door County Wine Festival

Presented by The Wellness Center of Door County

September 23 – 27

Wednesday, September 23: Wine tasting at The Cookery Restaurant, Fish Creek, 7 pm. $25/person, call 920.868.3634 for reservations.

Thursday, September 24: Wine dinner at The Whistling Swan, Fish Creek, 7 pm. $75/person, call 920.868.3443 for reservations.

Friday, September 25: Wine dinner at the Mission Grille, Sister Bay, 7 pm. $75/person, call 920.854.9070 for reservations.

Saturday, September 26: Grand tasting at the Sister Bay Village Hall, 6 – 10 pm. For tickets visit or call 920.746.9444.

Sunday, September 27: “Wine Down” tasting at Mr. Helsinki, Fish Creek, 7 pm. Call 920.868.9898 for reservations.