Welcome to Mark O’Neill’s Wine Blog


Classic Wine Blends

Recently I wrote an article about why wines are blended. It came as a surprise to some that some wines are a blend, such as Rioja, which is a mix of several wines made from different grape varieties. I can understand the confusion given that here in Spain, Rioja is synonymous with red wine yet the quality and style can vary greatly. So we have to dig a little deeper to find out more.

Here are some other classic wines of the world that are blends.

As I say Rioja is not one grape nor one style. It is a mix of Tempranillo, Mazuelo, Graciano, the white grape Macabeo is also permitted in the blend. The base wine is Tempranillo which when aged in oak barrels has a delightful flavours of strawberries and cream, the other varieties add different flavours and characters.

It is the skill and vision of the winemaker that will determine the style of the wine. Knowing the characteristics of each component and marrying them together comes with experience. No two vintages are the same so the percentages of grapes used depends on various factors.

Champagne is a blend of Chardonnay with the red grape varieties Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. While Cava is made in the same way as Champagne the grapes used are different; Macabeo, Chardonnay, Xarel-lo, Parellada.

One of the most well known wines from southern France is Chateauneuf du Pape, from the Rhone. Thirteen grape varieties are permitted to make this wine. However, most are made with Grenache, known as Garnacha in Spain, Syrah, Cinsault and Mourvedre, known as Monastrell in Spain. It is a full bodied red wine with a complex array of flavours of red fruits, spices and hints of leather.

One of Italy’s classic blends is Chianti from Tuscany. It can be made solely from Sangiovese, known for its black cherry flavours and notable acidity, however, up to 30% of the blend can be made of other grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon.

Staying in Italy, Soave is one of the famous classic white blends from the Veneto region made from the indigenous grape variety Garganega along with Trebbiano and Chardonnay. Quality can vary so I would recommend that you pay a little more to get a better quality wine.

The Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc is the most famous of the classic wine blends. However, Bordeaux whites are often overlooked for the more prestigious reds but top quality white wines are made from a blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc and are definitely worth checking out.

In fact Sauterne, think of Chateau Yquem, is also from Bordeaux and is made from a blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc. These a rich, lusciously sweet wines with citrus and honey flavours balanced with a high acidity.

Priorato in northern Spain is famous for producing full bodied reds with red fruits, pepper and mineral flavours. Here again this wine is a blend of several grapes, notably Garnacha, Shiraz and Cariñena.

The advantage of a named wine is that it can make it easier to choose when the other wines on a list are not familiar to you. Yet it pays to look behind the front label to get more of the story.

Written by

I am a Northern Irishman based in Valencia. My career in wine began more than three decades ago, in London. I am the founder of TheWinePlace.es, an online store, where wine enthusiasts can enjoy a selection of international wines and Verde Marte, a company dedicated to exporting Spanish wines. Also, Thewineplace.courses, an "approved program provider" of the courses of the prestigious WSET. I share my passion for wines through my media work writing weekly columns for the Spanish newspaper El Mundo and 5 Barricas, an online wine magazine.

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