Blending, by Art and by Chance - Part 2
Last issue we talked about blending by chance and I confessed my big mistake of pumping 2/3 of a tank of Cabernet Sauvignon into a tank of Cabernet Franc. This mistake fortunately led to that once in a lifetime discovery of a new wine, the Lake William wine. Aside from mistakes, on a day to day basis we also do the real wine blending by design.
Why Do We Blend?
It is said that blending is the real art of winemaking. We can achieve many things by blending; the first and most obvious is a better taste and color. But with blending we can also develop wines of various strengths so as to accommodate different tastes and different foods. Perhaps the most important purpose of blending is to achieve a wine that tastes the same each year so our customers can count on a consistent wine.
To achieve this consistency we do a lot of blending within a single varietal. The Cabernet Sauvignon is often blended with other varietals, as is the case with our Lake William, but also proves to be an outstanding wine on its own. Even 100% Cabernet Sauvignon can still profit from blending. For blending purposes, we grow three different clones of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes and employ two different trellis systems. We also have three different micro climates on our property, further divided into a dozen different picking zones. We pick each of these vineyard zones separately and then judiciously choose the highest quality grapes from each zone in order to keep our 100% Cabernet Sauvignon tasting it's best and being consistent from year to year.
Over the years, winemakers have learned which varieties go well together. The classic Bordeaux blend, for example, generally starts with Cabernet Sauvignon and adds small percentages of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot. Over the years the Bordeaux blend was a taste standard until in the last few decades there has been an explosion of different Cabernet Sauvignon blends from California and other locations. Our Lake William is a good example of a favorable Cabernet Sauvignon blend, one using a considerable fraction of Cabernet Franc and Merlot.
It is interesting that the Queen of Wines, the Chardonnay seldom profits from blending with other varietals and is nearly always kept at 100% Chardonnay. But still we work at blending our Chardonnay within its own varietal. We employ wine made from different vineyard zones picked at different times and fermented in two different types of barrels and using two different yeasts. This gives us a nice variety of Chardonnays for use in blending.
Blending Drop Outs
What happens when some lots of our wine don't have that magic ability to improve our blends but actually detract for one reason or another. This does happen every year or two and we will sell off those particular lots in bulk. I don't think any of them have wound up in 2 Buck Chuck yet, but who knows!