All photos by Jeff Licciardello
Let’s face it: winemaking is pretty much the coolest job ever, so if you’ve ever thought about quitting your day job and going into the winemaking trade, you’re not alone. The problem is that winemaking can be seriously difficult, expensive, time consuming, and often downright illegal. However, while you may not be able to purchase a vineyard and a winepress, there is another way you can make your own signature wine: by blending.
Wine blending is the process by which you combine different varietal wines into one supreme wine. Most of the time, when a winery is making a blend, they’ll keep the varietals separate until they reach the bottle. That means that each kind of grape will be grown in different vineyards, fermented apart, and sometimes even aged in different casks. The exception to this is a field blend, in which the grapes are grown together in the same area. While some blends are frowned upon (for instance, don’t mix red and white wine), blending is responsible for a great deal of wine out there. In fact, unless the wine specifies that it’s made up of 100% [fill in the grape], chances are it’s a blend (rules on this vary greatly around the world, but it is certainly the case in the United States).
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Blending is definitely an art, but there’s no reason you can’t master it and make your wine your own. One of the simplest blends you can make at home is a Bordeaux style blend with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc wines (Malbec, Petit Verdot & Carménère are other rarely seen, but permitted Bordeaux grapes). Simply buy a bottle of each, and make sure each bottle is comprised of 100% its respective grape. You want these to be good quality wines that you personally enjoy. After all, your blend should be a reflection of you as a wine lover, and your taste is awesome. Grab your wine, a few wine glasses, some beakers or other measuring equipment, and get started.
First, decide if you want a “left bank” or a “right bank” blend. To make a “left bank” blend, your blend should be majority Cabernet Sauvignon, to make a “right bank” blend, most of your blend should be made of Merlot. (P.S., if you’re not sure what “left bank” and “right bank” means, check out our handy guide here.) For the former:
Mix 60 ml of Cabernet Sauvignon, 30 ml of Merlot, and 10 ml of Cabernet Franc in a larger receptacle. Swirl the mix around for a bit before pouring it into a glass. If you’d prefer a “right bank” Bordeaux, do the same thing, but use 60 ml Merlot and 30 ml Cab Sauvignon.
The Merlot-forward blend will be more gentle and fruit-filled, while the Cabernet-forward blend will be more tannic and therefore will have what many people refer to as a “stronger backbone” as tannins are the compound that dries out your mouth – these higher tannin wines are ideal for drinking with rich food such as braised or grilled meat. Finally, the Cabernet Franc will add a little bit of a vegetal quality to either blend. If you select the right bank wines (which, knowing you, you will) once you’ve bought the bottles, there’s no shame in trying more than one blend. If you want to experiment further, mix 5 ml of Cabernet Franc and 5 ml of Petit Verdot.
The wine store is now your vineyard, so have fun with your options. If you want to share your blend with friends, simply bottle it and make your own wine labels. We recommend these, but that’s just our two cents.