Red blends. It’s a term that has been bandied about quite liberally over the past several years, commonly referring to ‘kitchen sink’ wines that are overtly fruity and sweet enough to need their own category in which to hide.
But there is also a need for a broad, overarching category to cover red wine blends that are emerging around the world, based loosely on Bordeaux varieties, but with a regional twist. From my point of view these have always been outliers, which are easy to identify since they don’t naturally fall within any of the groups of wine I typically sample together.
Perhaps they could be considered a sort of offspring of Meritage wines. They certainly represent a development and maturation of the marketplace. We are moving past the age of varietal wines being prejudicially better. Producers are recognizing the appeal of blended wines, and consumers, perhaps some weaned on the ubiquitous red blends, are willing to judge them on their merits. And some obviously are quite deserving of merit.
For this article I tasted several wines from South America, with varying amounts of Malbec or Carmenere in the mix. These wines are regionally identifiable because of their indigenous varieties, but with a distinctly global appeal. There are also many wines that are blending Syrah these days; some are historic blends, others perhaps an outlet for unused Syrah in a difficult market. They are interesting and exciting, particularly for consumers who have stuck with familiar, varietal wines.
It is curious that we need new red blends to excite consumers, when we have true classics such as Chianti, Rioja, and of course Bordeaux as the benchmarks for what can be produced when complementary varieties are skillfully blended. For whatever reason (most likely palates honed on new world wines) these newer editions seem to resonate more deeply with younger consumers. The price of course is part of the equation, and while today’s batch of wines is not exactly inexpensive, with wines ranging between $13 and $30, these wines do remain affordable.
So many of us tend to find what we like and stick with it. In many cases when we abandon exploration, in wine as in other matters, we lose a bit of the joy and excitement of discovery that should be part of life. These red blends are exciting, whether innovative or traditional though obscure. I suggest that we do not dismiss them out of hand because they are unfamiliar, but instead that we embrace them. Not because they are all good, because that is ultimately a personal judgment, but because they make life more interesting. Find one that you like and share it with a few friends and see what each of you discovers. If nothing more these wines certainly serve to stimulate conversation, and that is one of wine’s fundamental obligations: To serve as a social lubricant. And these red blends manage to do that in more ways than one!
40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Cabernet Franc, 20% Tempranillo
Bright currants greet the nose along with lovely sweet baking spice a gently gamy edge and some cedary framing notes. Supple and well balanced on entry, both juicy acids and finely polished tannins help to support the core of blueberry and red currant fruit on the palate. the tannins intrude slightly on the midplate, still polished but youthfully dry still, and clip the finish a bit as well. Still this offers plenty of herb tinged and slightly jammy berry fruit on the palate over hints of shale soil. The finish is quite long, with a bit of heat but fine persistence to the fruit, and the tannins. With air this gets more tannic and the fruit takes on a blacker, asphalt tinged character. One to cellar and to watch for another 3 to 5 years. 90pts
57% cabernet sauvignon, 43% Shiraz
Dark chocolate and tobacco note flood the nose here with black pepper and herbal nuances adding detail to the underlying base of dark, dried fruits all topped with allspice like oak. A touch sweet on entry, this quickly rights itself delivering a rich, powerful mouthful of dark fruit that is well supported by bright acids and fine grained tannins. the fruit shows hints of raspberry on the palate with an edgy, raw quality to it. This is a big wine that shows a whisper of heat on the long finish, but it remains very well balanced and with oak well integrated and fruit that more than strays into the red fruit end of the spectrum. Just a little chewy in the mouth, this is very well put together. 90pts
57% Syrah, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Carmenere, 2% Petite Verdot
Very perfumed on the nose with lovely ivy, floral and sweetly herbal aromas framing a core of red fruit. With air an assertively toasted oak note replaces much of the early perfume. Really smooth in the mouth, slippery even, this has a very appealing texture with flavors that shift between the peppery blue fruit of Syrah and the earthier, currant driven flavors of Cabernet and Carmenere. the overt Carmenere aromas on the nose are a bit lost in the mouth, where this is fairly fruity and gently spicy. Fairly sophisticated and nicely styled for a broad market. The finish is long, peppery and showing nice oaky spice and blue fruit with a hint of alcoholic warmth. 90pts
50% Syrah, 30% Cabernet Franc, 20% Grenache
Quire pure on the nose with hints of herb stem and earth framing sweet cognac tinged notes of earl grey tea and raspberry compote. The oak gains a little more intensity but aromatically this remains wonderfully focused and bright. On entry there a big rush of raspberry fruit followed by bristly yet well covered tannins and a nice dose of earthy, savory spice on the midpalate. A bit of blueberry and more earthy notes emerge in the mouth as this gains both herbal and peppery complexity on the back of the palate. a bit fruity on the finish, and a touch dry, this is a bit bigger than I might prefer but has real tension in the mouth, excellent complexity, and lovely purity and freshness to the fruit. It is a tannic wine, and it grows spicier with air so serve it with the appropriate food. I suggest a nice herb and garlic rubbed piece of grilled lamb! 88pts
50% Malbec, 50% Cabernet Franc
All quinine and root vegetables on the nose with lots of rich, loamy earth and smoky tobacco aromas. Both firm at its core, and round with the slight fleshiness of youth, this is too young today with lots of the quinine and earthy root vegetable flavors that show up on the nose. Quite tannic with fruit tannins, this really does take after Amaron in the mouth and if one was not familiar with the wine I can see being gravely disappointed with this but both the texture and the finish, where lovely mulberry, herb, and black currant flavors emerge bode well for the future. Still, if you have this today pair it with some grilled lamb or goat, or even better yet, put it in the cellar for three years to help tame some of that rusticity and soften the bristly tannins. 88pts
50% Malbec, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon
Smoky, earthy and a bit reductive on the nose this takes lots of swirling and air to release its attractive rosemary, ink, used oak, dried herb and black cherry aromas. Smooth and polished in the mouth, the fruit here is nicely framed with just a bit of older wood leaving this attractively light on the palate. The tannins are small if a touch dry and the acid juicy enough to accentuate the wine’s red berry fruit. There’s a touch of mineral and some stemmy spice on the long finish, which hints at just a touch of RS lending support here. Delicious and restrained and real solid value with lovely purity to the red fruit on the finish and brushy little tannins that keep this engaging. 87pts
45% Malbec, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Syrah, 10% Bonarda
Very perfumed on the nose, a bit balsamic with lots of spicy wood notes and intense black currant and plum fruit with just a hint of black pepper. Smooth, rich and powerful on the palate with a hint of slaty minerality adding nice depth here. More medium weight than one might expect from the nose, the fruit here is rich but shows restrained ripeness. the oak is well integrated, adding some toasty spiciness to the dark blueberry and blackberry toned palate. Dry and fairly firm on the finish, which is moderately long, this is very well knit together though it does lack some personality or identity. I couldn’t tell you what this was or where it was from. 87pts
53% Syrah, 46% Merlot
Lovely grilled meats, chocolate nuances and floral notes frame the blue and black fruits on the nose. This is supple and medium full in the mouth with lovely blue fruit early on the palate supported by juicy acids. the tannins really take the back seat here making this rather easy drinking and it gets less weighty in the mouth with some air. A nice blend where the Syrah is the dominant player but the merlot helps to keeps this softer and easier in style. This really works very well, the only knock is that the finish is a bit short. 87pts
50% Malbec, 50% Cabernet Franc
Earthy and wild on the nose with some natural yeast notes and soft dried grass and tobacco framed fruit. Rich, plump even on entry then this turns a bit severe quite quickly in the mouth. There’s a big mineral base note, some noticeable and slightly dry tannins,and lots of earthy dried herbal flavors on the palate with a suggestion of rosemary. It’s a bit of a tough wine and one that certainly needs food. A bit of iron or blood shows up on the backend along with a little white spice and drying tannins that power through the moderately long though opaque finish. A pretty powerful wine, just not terribly expressive today and a bit too dry. 84pts
49% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Shiraz, 16% Merlot
Minty and leathery on the nose with plenty of macerated herbal notes and spicy, peppery dark fruit all topped with hints of sassafras. A bit soft on entry, this is a fairly deep and somewhat earthy wine on the palate. theres a nice early note of dried fruit and vanilla followed by leathery, earthy nuances and cherry pit tones on the palate. Not much of a finish mars the experience. it’s fairly aromatic, with follow through in the mouth as well, but just stumbles on the backend and through the dry, lean finish. 84pts
By: Snooth – Articles