"I Don't Like Blends" - A Quiz
Friday, October 26, 2012 at 5:09PM

The other day, I was evangelizing about wine, as I tend to do from time to time, and I was excitedly telling a woman about a new red blend that I thought was a good value. (For those of you curious, the particular wine that I was referring to was the Cameron Hughes Lot 348 California Field Blend.) As I was explaining the origins of the term "field blend," the woman stopped me. "Oh, that's okay," she said. "I don't really like blends."

I was somewhat stunned for a moment, but regrouped and asked the woman why she disliked blended wines. She replied that she preferred to understand what individual grape varietals taste like, as opposed to tasting a bunch of grapes that were thrown together. I sighed, and told her that as much as Americans like to focus on specific grapes, and specific grape varietals, blending is an integral part of winemaking. Even wines that are labelled as single varietals (e.g. Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay) are allowed to have a certain percentage of other grape varietals in the final makeup of the wine. The percentage that is allowed varies by country. Although there are a few appellations that forbid blending, and insist on the use of a single grape varietal, most winemakers will tell you that they appreciate the creativity and freedom afforded by being able to create a blended wine. Most will also say that having the freedom to blend generally results in a better product. 

Blended wines can be found all over the world, and in most other countries, a wine's geography and sense of place are considered to be equally as important as the grapes that it is made from. You may love Bordeaux, but did you know that five different grapes can be used in the blend, and that there is no regulation regarding the proportions in which they are blended? A fan of Côtes du Rhône? 23 grapes can be used.

Coincidentally, our 2nd Week of Wine Discovery Classes at Levity focuses on key vintner choices, and along with the use of oak and the use of malolactic fermentation, blending is one of the most important decisions any winemaker faces. To that end, here's a quiz on blending. Submit your responses using our General Question Form. The winner gets their choice of free admission to one Wine Discovery Class at Levity, or a Starbucks gift card.

  1. Up to five red grapes can be used to make red wine in Bordeaux. Name them.
  2. Where did the term field blend originate from?
  3. In the United States, if a wine is labeled as a single varietal (e.g. Cabernet Sauvignon), what percentage of the wine has to be made from that grape? What is the percentage in Argentina? In Australia?
  4. Name two appellations that do not allow blending.
  5. What is the proprietary trademarked name (one word) for American wines made in a Bordeaux-style? What two words were used to coin the name?
  6. 23 different grapes can be used to make red Côtes du Rhône, but what three grapes are required to comprise at least 70% of the blend?

Good luck! All the answers should be fairly easy to find, if you put in a little work. If you're having trouble, feel free to sign up for Week 2 of Wine Discovery Class at Levity, and come ask questions!

We'll post the answers to the quiz next Friday.

Update on Friday, November 2, 2012 at 10:24PM by Registered Commentertruthinjuice

Thanks to all those who submitted responses to our "I Don't Like Blends" quiz over the past week. Out of all the responses, we got one perfect score. Congratulations to Holly from Vermont on acheiving the only perfect score on this quiz! Holly will receive her choice of free admission to an upcoming Wine Discovery Class, or a Starbucks gift card.

With that being said, here are the quiz answers.

  1. Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Malbec are the grapes that can be used to make red wines labeled as "Appelation Bordeaux Controllee."
  2. The term "field blend" refers to the practice of growing several grape varietals (usually Zinfandel, Petit Sirah, and Carignane) together in the same vineyard, then harvesting, crushing, and co-fermenting the grapes together. Historians believe that field blending was used in Europe prior to becoming a popular technique in California in the late 1800s/early 1900s. The practice is seldom used today, as most vineyards grow different grape varietals separately, and then blend the wines together after fermentation. However, there are still a few vineyards, comprised of very old vines, from which true field blend wines are produced. Ridge's Lytton Springs vineyards in California are an example.
  3. In the US, a wine labeled as a single varietal must be comprised of at least 75% of the varietal listed on the label. In Argentina it is 80%, and in Australia it is 85%. Some American states, such as Oregon, are more restrictive with their labeling laws. In Oregon, a wine labeled as a single grape varietal must consist of at least 90% of the grape written on its label, except for Cabernet Sauvignon which must have a minimum of 75%.
  4. Acceptable answers include: Barolo (100% Nebbiolo), Barbaresco (100% Nebbiolo) and Brunello di Montalcino (100% Sangiovese). (List others in the comments section if you feel inclined!)
  5. The Meritage Association was founded in 1988 by California vintners who were frustrated by the U.S. regulation requiring that varietally labeled wines have 75% of that varietal. Prior to founding the Meritage Association, and trademarking the Meritage name, American winemakers had no means of labeling their Bordeaux-styled wines as anything other than a "proprietary red blend," or a "red table wine." The name meritage is derived from the words "merit" and "heritage," and refers to the merits and heritage of Bordeaux. Wines wishing to use the trademarked "Meritage" designation must pay a fee, and can be made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot or Carmenère grapes. No single grape can comprise more than 90% of the blend.
  6. Grenache must comprise at least 40% of the blend in red Côtes du Rhône wines, and Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre together must comprise at least of 70% the blend.
Article originally appeared on Truth In Juice: Wine Education & Commentary (http://www.truthinjuice.com/).
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