ask dr. vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs. You can also follow me on Twitter: @AskDrVinny.


Dear Dr. Vinny,

The other night I knew I needed about four bottles of red for a get-together. I decided to open three bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon and a bottle of Cabernet Franc. I blended a little of each in a glass, tried it, played with the amounts, and finally decided to just throw all four bottles together and serve it that night. Everyone really liked it.

Is this a crazy idea? Major party foul? We enjoy wine and are trying to learn more about it. I don’t want to go down a path that insults the traditions and terroir. But if we like some of the flavors of two $12 bottles of wine on their own, but are more intrigued by how they may taste together, do you think that is a really bad idea?

—Louis L., Jefferson City, Mo.

Dear Louis,

From time to time I get letters like yours about people making experimental wine cocktails. I usually feel—like I did when I read your letter—that I can sense your excitement and interest in wine, and I’m all for whatever turns you on, oenologically speaking.

Is it a party foul? No, I don’t think so, unless you played some sort of game of “gotcha” where you tried to trick your guests into guessing what they were drinking. But if you served the wine in good faith and told them you’d been experimenting with blends, then I think it’s mostly fine and only a little bit weird.

I’m sure some wines out there can be enhanced by blending them with other wines, and if you enjoy dealing with the variables of not just varietals, but producers, appellations, vineyards and vintages and all the combinations thereof, more power to you.

But you asked me for advice, so here goes: Not every wine will improve this way, and yes, you do risk losing nuances and an understanding about the wines you’re drinking. I’m not sure if you realize this, but just because a wine says “Cabernet Sauvignon” on it, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. Rules vary around the world, but it can include as much as 25 percent of other grapes—which means your understanding of how blending works for you in your own glass isn’t as transparent as you might think.

I hope that you’re not opening wines just to blend them, and that you’re also taking a moment to evaluate each wine and watch it evolve on its own. If you’re not, try pouring just a few ounces of each wine into a separate glass and revisit them a couple of hours later to see how your initial opinion changes. While I’m all for you refining your blending skills, I’d like you to learn more about a wine beyond using it as an ingredient for something else.

—Dr. Vinny


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