by Aaron Winsor
Hello Prince Albert!
What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the word “blend”? For some people, blends are considered to be a masterful combination of flavors and grape profiles culminating in a final product that is mightier and more flavorful than the individual ingredients could have ever been on their own.
Others however, see blends in a completely different light with cheaper or less desirable grapes making their way into mediocre wines. To be fair, both perspectives have a valid point and like all types of products, some blended wines can be complete masterpieces while others are relegated to the entry level budget wine category. The key to finding high quality blends begins as it often does in the wine aisle, by reading and understanding the wine label on the bottle.
Take for instance the Monasterio Gran Reserva from Spain; the label gives us plenty of information from the grape breakdown (garnacha, cab sauv, tempranillo and carinena) to the designation (DOP Carinena) and even to the time the wine has spent in oak and bottle (24 months of oak age and vintage date). As always, these specific clues will indicate the experience you can expect.
The enjoyment you will get or not get from a bottle depends on your personal style and while entry level budget wines may not satisfy rabid wine enthusiasts, there is a time and place for affordable wines like Bodacious Red or Copper Moon Smooth Blend. Once again, the wording on the label is very important since wines with terms like “Smooth”, “Soft” or “Silk” on the label will often indicate a wine with more sweetness and less emphasis on tannins and earthy flavors. If that is the type of wine you enjoy then these blends are very affordable and will satisfy your need for fruit forward flavors.
Wine drinkers with a developed palate will usually find the entry level blends to be quite sweet and lacking in complexity with no sense of the land they were grown in since the cheapest blends often have no designation or guarantee of origin. Besides that, most budget blends will not give the breakdown of grapes and the flavor of these wines can taste slightly generic.
In the end, the choice is yours to make but I recommend purchasing a few budget blends and then spend a few more dollars and try a few high-quality blends from areas like Cotes du Rhone, Chianti, Rioja, Bordeaux or Cotes du Rousillon. You will be the ultimate decider on which wines you will enjoy. Here are my wine picks of the week!
Monasterio Gran Reserva 2013: (DOP Carinena, Spain). Dry red, medium to deep ruby color. The nose opens with fruity scents of blackberries, ripe red cherries, strawberries, red currants, gentle black pepper, vanilla frosting and earthy tones of sweet black soil and young mushroom with fresh dirt clinging. The palate presents with soft woody notes (cedar, oak), cherry skins, red grapes, cherry fruit, blackberry, spicy pepper, clay and red currants. The initial wave of fruit is followed by a long finish of building spice, oak notes and dusty cocoa. Medium body mouthfeel with medium acidity and high but sweet tannins. Pair with paella, chorizo, mushroom dishes, steak or earthy cheeses. Very good! $30, 13.5% ABV
Fonte Delle Donne 2015: (IGT Tuscany, Italy). Dry white, medium lemon color. This crisp white has a lovely scent of citrus zest, fresh tennis ball/rubber bouncy ball, lemongrass, quince fruit, cut grass, hints of goat cheese and wet pebble/rocks. Medium-plus intense on the palate with medium body and medium-plus acidity. Lively and bright with sea salt salinity, lemon juice, wet rock, lemon peel, citrus pith, grapefruit, pomelo and oyster shell with a tangy metallic edge. The sharp, crisp style reflects grassy, vegetal flavors as well as citrus and mineral. Hints of earth and mushroom peak their way through on the long finish, intermingling with bright citrus. Pairs perfectly with creamy sauces, fresh seafood in citrus butter, lemon pepper chicken wings or risotto. Drink now or within a couple of years. Very good! $23, 13% ABV
Cheers and thanks for reading!
by Aaron Winsor