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 remember on a wine tasting tour in Napa the tour guide telling us about the blend this one vineyard used for their reds. He was speaking about the characteristics of each grape, where it hits on the tongue and where it fits in the taste experience. Cabernet Sauvignon, I remember, he said was on the finishing end of the taste. I have searched high and low for this info, but can’t find anything. Can you point me in the right direction?

—Mike, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Dear Mike,

Winemakers blend different grapes together to add complexity and balance to their wines, and to give them flexibility that a single-grape expression doesn’t allow. But the reasoning behind the final makeup of the wine, and the results achieved, will vary not only from winemaker to winemaker, but also from vintage to vintage, and from wine to wine.

To get a better understanding of, say, how a Bordeaux blend is made up, I can point you to a helpful part of our website that discusses varietal characteristics. Even though there are an infinite number of expressions of Cabernet Sauvignon out there, there are some common threads of tannic structure and flavors and aromas that each grape is known for. It’s kind of fun to pick out Cabernet Franc’s telltale notes of bell pepper in a blend now and again, just as I can sometimes pick out the garlic in a tomato sauce. But I also don’t recommend you fixate on these things, because the best blended wines are seamless, with all the elements working together in harmony.

—Dr. Vinny


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