Posted by on Dec 6, 2016 in Fabio Viviani's Wine 101 | 0 comments

If you’re looking to become a wine expert but are still a novice, you have come to the right place. I am here to share what I know about wine with anyone who would like to learn. Wine is a serious business and cannot be learned in a day. Although, I will say it’s much more interesting than the subjects you studied in school! One of the questions I get asked a lot is, what’s the difference between a “red blend” and single varietal, such as Cabernet Sauvignon?
To keep all definitions simple, think of a red wine blend as a combination of different wine types to make one wine. This is the very definition of blending. A single varietal wine is exactly what it sounds like. It is generally one single wine (or grape) type. Now, here’s where it gets a little tricky (but not too tricky). Virtually all wines, “red blend” or single varietal, are blends. Blending is very important in winemaking. Having one type of grape might result in a flavor that is too harsh or unbalanced. So, even a single varietal wines such as “Cabernet Sauvignon”, might have Cabernet Sauvignon grapes picked from multiple different places in a vineyard in order to balance out the wine.
The art of blending wine is not new and in fact has been around for hundreds of centuries. From Europe to the Americas, wine makers blend certain wines together to create unique tastes. With over 100 varieties of red wine grapes, the blending possibilities are truly endless. Blending is done to make simple flavors more complex, or scents more potent or to even stimulate every part of your mouth with flavor. Blending will even occur to subdue some flavors when a single varietal turns out to be too strong and to find the perfect balance of flavors.
Many winemakers will make single varietal barrels for only the purpose of blending. When combining anything to create new flavors, trial and error will be used to get the flavors right. Of course, in this day and age, red wine has been blended for so long that there are many proven and wonderful combinations that you have most likely consumed without even knowing they were a blend. The science has already been done for you and now all you need to do is enjoy and educate yourself further.  Some popular blends already in production (and most likely found in your favorite liquor/wine store) include: Cabernet Sauvignon with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon with Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon with Zinfandel, Sangiovese with Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir with Zinfandel, Sangiovese with Merlot, Zinfandel with Petite Syrah, and Pinot Noir with Syrah. Keep in mind that there are many, many more.
You can find any of these combinations at a local liquor store. Try to find one that does specialize in wine, and you are guaranteed to find your favorite combination. If you were in the dark before about red wine blends, the next time you head into your local liquor store, pay more attention to the labels. If a wine is blended, the label should have all of the wines listed used to make that particular bottle, or in our case, have a QR code link so you can learn more about the wine. You will be amazed by all of the combinations and how many different wines you have likely tried with the endless bottle blends out there.
Now, single varietal wine is delicious and amazing in its own right. These wines allow you to familiarize yourself with specific wine flavors, scents, body, and tannins. This means when you’re drinking multiple blended red wines, you will begin to be able to pick out the wines that came together. And that is a very cool skill. Common single variety red wines are Merlot, Zinfandel, Syrah, Malbec, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon. All of these wines are made from a single grape and then aged in barrels for the desired length. The flavors of these wines will be based purely on age. This results in these being somewhat stronger.
Now that we know the definitions and differences between red wine blend and single varietal wines, your homework is to go out and try as many blends as you can. And as many single varietal wines as well. Compare. Contrast. Learn the separate tastes and enjoy the combinations. You can even make your own by purchasing single varietals and combining at your next party.