Guide to Rhone Blends

Find out why blended wines are an integral part of history


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Today things have changed and winemakers have the luxury of creating wines for a luxury market. The end result is blending to achieve the best possible outcome in any given vintage, but with man’s increasing control over nature and the raw materials, the blend itself has become the dominant player in the blending decision making process, particularly in Châteauneuf, where history has seen a wide range of grapes. While all are still allowed in the blend, they are whittled to one star Grenache, and many supporting players. So let’s start by reviewing Châteauneuf.
The Grand Vin of the Southern Rhone Valley, Châteauneuf is perhaps the quintessential blended wine. With 13 varieties of grapes allowed, 15 if you include both the light and dark skinned varieties of Grenache and Picpoul, each winemaker has the ability to craft a unique and distinct interpretation of the soils and climates of the region. While few producers use all or even most of the 13 varieties, most rely on Grenache to form the heart and soul of their wines. These are rather big and distinctly warm climate wines that are rich with alcohol. The tannins of Grenache are modest, so many of these wines require little aging to be enjoyed; yet many can improve over the course of a decade. Typically one finds rich strawberry and red cherry tones in Châteauneuf with complicating notes of herbs and lavender, frequently referred to as "garrigue". There are frequently notes of game, leather and tar, typical of Syrah and Mourvedre - two other important components of many wines.

Chateauneuf-du-Pape image via Shutterstock

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