"Uncategorically" Red Blends

What started as a movement to hide sweet wines is developing into one of the most dynamic and interesting wine niches.


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!

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5 Great Red Blends

Veleta Nolados (2009)
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Yalumba the Scribbler (2010)
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Antiyal Kuyen (2011)
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Altozano Verdejo & Sauvignon Blanc (2011)
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Clos Roche Blanche Pif Cabernet Franc Cot Case of 6 Bottles (2011)
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  • Good article. Especially the part of continuing to explore. That is evident in Greg's recommendations which represent an excellent cross-section of wines from areas all around the globe. The point is to continue to expand your knowledge and thus your enjoyment. One advantage to blends that I've found is consistency. I especially enjoy Meritage and recommend the Estancia Reserve Meritage Paso Robles 14.5% ABV $20 51% Cabernet Sauvgnon, 38% Merlot, 11% Petit Verdot. Deep crimson in color the wine offers aromas of mocha, black currant, cocoa, and plum. Flavors include dark fruit, chocolate, caramel, cedar, and French vanilla. 90pts Stay thirsty my friends.

    Oct 06, 2014 at 3:58 PM

  • Snooth User: scrnm
    290605 1

    For years I drank a Bulgarian blend of Cabernet & Merlot that was very very good especially for $3, probably more now if Monseur Henri label persist. What's the difference between this philosophy and process and Negociante Wines, which seem to prevail in Quebec, they are very good and a relative bargain. Allows human skill to make up for weather and geographical varations not easily controlled.

    Oct 06, 2014 at 4:01 PM

  • Snooth User: Zuiko
    Hand of Snooth
    540750 839

    My epiphany with red blends was with Hedges Family 2009 CMS. It was a good year for Washington and this wine was outstanding with its eucalyptus and cedar notes and nearly port-like richness. Now I seek out red blends.

    Oct 06, 2014 at 4:27 PM

  • Snooth User: Bill Davis
    943463 15

    Well, I call the "New World/Proprietary Blends...many to choose from, especially over and up here in the PNW, in part, because wineries a) can blend varietals from traditionally different regions of France, Italia & Espan, and b) do not wish to pay the extra fee for using the name 'meritage'...For example, "Zuiko" rightly I mean correctly identified Hedges Family CMS from Red Mountain AVA; CMS stands for CabSauv, Merlot, Syrah. These proprietary blends really allow the winemaker's interest, skill and ability to shine through.

    Oct 06, 2014 at 5:15 PM

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