Wine 101: Varietals und Blends


argentina-604Who doesn’t know what Chardonnay is? Or Cabernet Sauvignon? These two are highly recognizable grapes, which are commonly sold all on their own, as varietal wines. Meaning that the predominating -or exclusive- grape variety in the bottle will be the one shown on the label.

Blends involve varying amounts of different grapes that may have been fermented separately or together. The archetypal blend is the French Bordeaux style, which usually includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and/orCabernet Franc. This successful style has been replicated virtually in every wine region in the world, and it is known in North America as Meritage.

In blends, the winemaker seeks to highlight some characteristics of a particular grape, or to polish off edges, to add structure, lift up the fragance or the acidity, in order to work a final product that will better the outcome of the individual varieties.

Varietals are easier to approach, because they showcase typical characters like fruit and aroma. They tend to be more “extrovert” than blends, in which the winemaker intends to achieve something more complex,¬† more subtle and elegant. It could be said that varietals are more about the grape and blends are more about the winemaking.

Examples of red blends are Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot, Grenache-Shiraz-Mouverdre, Cabernet Sauvignon-Shiraz. For whites we have Semillon-Chardonnay, Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc among others.

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