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.


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.

Dear Rob,

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.

—Dr. Vinny


Do you have a question for Dr. Vinny? Ask it here...

Wine Basics

We break down the basics—how to taste, serve, store and more. Plus:
» Maps of major wine regions
» Grape variety characteristics

How-to Videos

Learn to taste wine like a pro, pull a cork with flair, get great wine service in a restaurant and more

Wine Spectator School: All courses are FREE for WineSpectator.com Members

Learn from the experts and get the most out of each sip. Take one of our online courses or take them all—from the ABCs of Tasting to in-depth seminars on Food Pairing, California Cabernet, Bordeaux, Tuscany, Sensory Evaluation and more.

Browse our course catalog
Check out the professional wine sales and service courses
Learn Wine Forum: Got questions? Get answers

MEMBER LOGIN

= members only

Keep me logged in      Forgot Password?

Free Email Newsletters

Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions

» View samples
» Or sign up now!
» Manage my newsletter preferences

Classifieds

The marketplace for all your wine needs, including:

Wine Storage | Wine Clubs
Dining & Travel | Wine Auctions
Wine Shops | Wine Accessories