July 27th, 2010 by Melissa
One of my goals as a winemaker is to identify wines that will contribute to a balanced, truly enjoyable blend, and to carry this potential along into the finished blend. What’s the process behind this? This is where the stereotype of the winemaker really fits! Wine thief in hand, I go from barrel to barrel, making determinations of quality and earmarking lots for one blend or another. Even with a spit cup, it’s hard not to enjoy this part of the job. Each of the wines I have been watching since September or October of last year have finally come into their own, with distinct personalities!
Once the merits of these individual barrels and lots are identified, the blending trials begin in the lab. Each of the candidate wines is sampled, and blended proportionately in several different ways. I will take an educated guess on the first round, using experience with each component to make the initial blends. Trial and error is best way to know how well these varied wines will get along (Often, my favorite individual barrels in the cellar may turn out to be the least attractive in the blend!). I’ll take notes, and try variations on the successful blends. This continues over several sessions, as the blend gets dialed in. Often, small changes make the biggest difference, and the wine finally hits its sweet spot!
The best blending tool available to me as a winemaker is diversity. Wine can express itself in so many different ways, even from the same fermentation lots. Some barrels may be hard edged, but with a beautiful intensity of fruit. Others may lend elegance, or a pretty floral aroma. Others yet may provide a needed touch of acid, to keep the wine alive and vital. When blending from different vineyards, clones, or varietals, even more dramatic impact can be achieved!
The stylistic goal of the blend is of great importance. If this has been chosen from within the grapes’ true potential, the wine will speak for itself. There is no sense trying to overmanipulate a wine, muscling a wine that wants to be elegant into an overblown style, or vice-versa. The wine-making will usually be apparent in those wines. It is definitely important for me to listen to the wines, and let them be my guide.
When tasting your next bottle of wine, explore the variety of ways in which the wine expresses itself to you, with the numerous fruit, floral, and spice aromas and flavors. A well-blended wine should always be offering you something more, rewarding your contemplation. As we blend our 2009 vintage wines, we will try to provide you with that reward!