What Exactly Is a California Red Blend?

Looking for good wine at a great value? A California red blend could be your answer. But what exactly is in this mysterious blend? Actually, it could be a lot of things. On top of that, some wines not even marketed as blends are blends.

The base of your California red blend is most likely the same as a classic Bordeaux blend: either Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. Other classic blending grapes used in Bordeaux include Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Carmenere. While these are also used in California red blends (with Malbec at a bare minimum), Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, and Syrah are other grapes commonly used in these big, boisterous blends. So how exactly do you know what you’re getting in the bottle?

The exact breakdown of grape varietals, otherwise known as the “assemblage,” is what sets these reds apart from one another. If the assemblage is not broken down for you on your bottle’s label, head to the producer’s website and look for a technical sheet. While California red blends can occasionally get pricey, many can be found under the $25 price mark, making them a solid go-to choice.

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As for those Californian non-blend wines that may actually be blends, in California the law states that for a wine to be labeled as a single varietal — meaning, one individual grape name on the bottle (Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, etc.) — it only has to contain 75 percent of that grape. That’s right, that bottle of Cab that you love so much could actually contain up to 25 percent of other various red varietals.