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Dear Dr. Vinny,
When making a Cabernet/Merlot blend from grapes, what percentage of the following do you recommend: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot?
—Rob, Roslyn, N.Y.
While I don’t doubt that some folks out there would read your question and immediately think, “Oh! Forty-seven percent Cabernet Franc!,” I think most people might like to, uh, taste the components of the wine first.
The spirit of blending grapes together is usually to come up with a product that’s more complex and balanced as a whole than the individual parts. What works and what doesn’t is typically figured out after tasting through the components and various trial blends, not calculated beforehand.
Blending gives winemakers flexibility, which is terrific because vintages can vary. One year, say, the Cabernet Sauvignon might be weak but the Merlot turns out strong, so blending can help create a more consistent style from year to year. Some vintners are masters of pulling together different kinds of wines that are a modern take on winemaking, while others follow more traditional routes, like the Bordeaux blends that use the grapes you’ve asked about. Sometimes red and white wines are even blended together.
Other vintners take a different approach. Perhaps they want to express a single site, or a single grape from a single site. Or perhaps it’s a single grape, but blended from many different vineyards to come up with the strongest wine possible. There’s no right or wrong way to approach it.
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