Most casual wine drinkers are surprised to find that wine varietals, or non-blended wine doesn’t have to be made with 100% of the same grape. Though the immediate reaction may be one of dismay, blending plays a huge role in winemaking and shouldn’t be dismissed as some ploy.
In the United States, wine has to contain at least 75% of a single grape type to be considered a varietal. The rules are more strict in Europe at 80%. Some countries like Argentina, Australia, Chile, and New Zealand have even higher same grape requirements.
In general, wine blends contain at least half of one type of grape varietal.
Blending wine is an important part of winemaking. Many consider it the “art” piece of making wine. Blending makes wine more complex allowing the vintner to enhance the flavors, aroma, and color of the wines being produced. Ross Szabo said it best in an article published on The Huffington Post in 2012:
“Blending is used to maximize the expression of a wine. It can enhance aromas, color, texture, body and finish, making it a more well-rounded and complex wine. If a wine doesn’t have a strong scent, for example, a winemaker can add five percent of a more potent smelling grape and can experiment with different types of varietals coming from other vineyards. They could have been aged in oak barrels, fermented in various kinds of vessels or just harvested in different phases of ripeness.”
Most red wines will have some type of blended in element even if it is considered a varietal. Some grapes however, like Pinot Noir, are traditionally not blended. The same is true of most white wine.
If you’re curious about your wine check the label. Visit the wineries website for additional information. Blending is a vital part of the winemaking process and blended wines can be as complex as any varietal.