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,

I mixed Merlot and Sangiovese and it wasn’t bad. Sometimes the Sangiovese seems a little sour. Any other good red mixes?

—Anthony, Lakewood, Ohio

Dear Anthony,

Sure, red wines are mixed together all the time, though usually before they’re bottled, not after. Keep in mind that most wines are a blend of more than one grape—even if a label says “Sangiovese,” it doesn’t necessarily mean the wine is 100 percent Sangiovese. Labeling laws vary around the world, but as much as 25 percent of the wine could be made from other types of grapes and it could still legally be called a Sangiovese.

When I get the occasional letter like yours from budding wine lovers who are experimenting with blending wines, I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I’m happy for you, and I’m glad you took something you weren’t enjoying and turned it into a better glass of wine for you. Everyone drinking and enjoying wine is my bread and butter.

On the other hand, I want to caution you. If you’re going to start experimenting with wine cocktails, keep in mind that even if I pointed out some classic varietal blends, there are millions of combinations you’d be confronted with, as the variables extend beyond just varietals into appellations, vineyards, vintages and producers. Not to mention what I just pointed out, which is that unless the bottle specifies the blend, you’re never really certain what your wines are made of, and therefore, what kinds of blends are for you.

I also want to warn you that not every wine will be improved by mixing it with something else, and by blending you risk missing a wine’s nuances, as well as an opportunity to learn. If you’re only looking at Sangiovese as an ingredient, you may never learn if you actually like it, or if you prefer Sangioveses from Italy to those from the New World, or if there’s a particular producer, style, or appellation of Sangiovese that strikes your fancy.

Sangioveses, by the way, tend to have higher acidity than other red wines, which might account for some pucker in the mouth, and what you describe as “sour”—though I also wonder if maybe the fruit flavors in this Sangiovese were on the underripe side, and you’d prefer a riper version. That jolt of acidity is what makes Sangiovese such a great wine to pair with so many foods.

—Dr. Vinny


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