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,
When a wine’s production is 100,000 cases or more a year, I would think it is impossible to blend all the wine at one time to be 100 percent consistent, given the size of the tanks needed. Wouldn’t that lead to variability in the bottle, and thus the potential for some variability in a wine’s rating?
—Michael H., Eugene, Ore.
Making quality wine at large volumes is no easy feat, and I admire when it’s done well. To answer your question, I checked in with winemaker Bob Bertheau of Chateau Ste. Michelle. If there’s anyone that knows about making huge amounts of yummy wine, it’s him.
Bertheau says that for larger blends they make “base blends” that are kept in separate tanks, and the sum total of all the base blends would constitute the final blend, called the “master blend.” Bertheau says that typically four or five base blends would go into a master blend. “As we go and bottle the final master blend, we put together the base blends in the exact same proportion over the course of the bottling season, which ensures that even though they might be bottled at a different time of the year, they are all essentially the same when we go and make each master blend of the bottling,” he explains.
That’s how Chateau Ste. Michelle does it, and I’m sure the other wineries that do it well also rely on a system that includes being organized and not being scared of a little math.
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