The Art of the Blend

When I first delved into the wine industry by launching our tour business, Windy City Tour Company, and distribution business, Evanston Cellars, I took it upon myself to learn about wine making styles both locally in the Midwest and around the world. As anyone might expect, I assumed that anything less than 100% of a varietal compromised the quality of the offering as well as the taste and aromatic profiles of the wine.

How wrong I was.

Now, six years into my journey, I realize that this assumption is not only false but prevented me from understanding the true art of what many wine makers have known all along.

That the sum of the parts can actually surpass the individual component which is the hidden secret of what a good blend can accomplish.

While it always seems that having 100% of anything is a good thing, in reality the TTB (the governing body of the US government that oversees the alcohol industry) allows a bottle to be labeled by the varietal if the bottle contains 75% or more of the primary varietal. That means much of the time when you buy a bottle of "merlot" or "cabernet franc" it could very easily contain some other varietals as well.

So what is the advantage to blending? Blending is a great way to use both the negative and positive qualities of a varietal and vintage to help create a better wine.

If you have three varietals that have different characteristics - say one wine is a bit acidic, the other has a softer quality in terms of tannins, and a third wine has a wonderful rich color, by combining the three wines, the wine maker can emphasize the strong points of each wine while downplaying the weaknesses (since the other components will help to reduce the negative qualities of the blending partners).

The art is coming up with the correct percentages that make the sum of the parts greater than the individual wines. And that is much of the fun when attempting to come up with the proportions that make for something pleasing.

So after my brief time in the industry, count me as a real admirer of a nicely blended wine. When I encounter a blend that is truly special, I want to learn more about the choices the wine maker has made and to understand the decision process that went into the creation of the blend.

And I look forward to releasing our first FORTY WINKS red blend sometime in the coming months. Its been a fun week coming up with the formula that I think will produce a real value for our customers and wine drinkers around Chicago!

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