Do vintners ever blend red and white grapes together?
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Dear Dr. Vinny,
I know that blending of grape varieties is an art that can produce outstanding wines, and some of my favorite wines are blends. Do vintners ever blend red and white grapes together?
—Bud, Westlake Village, Calif.
Absolutely. And you’re right that some outstanding wines out there are blends. Let me remind you that most wines out there are blended from more than one grape—even if they only list one variety on the label. How much blending and how the label reads is up to different local laws, so I’ll just gloss over that part and get back to your question.
There are three situations in particular in which it’s very common to blend red and white grapes together. The first is sparkling wine production. The three main grapes used in Champagne are Chardonnay (white), Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier (both red), which may be bottled separately or in blends. Other sparklers also blend red and white grapes.
The next scenario has its roots in the France’s Rhône region, in particular the Côte-Rôtie. Here Viognier (white) and Syrah (red) are mixed together, and often grow alongside each other and sometimes are even co-fermented together. Other producers of Syrah around the world have adopted this practice, but depending on the labeling laws in each region, if they only add a small amount of Viognier to Syrah (or Shiraz, its other name), the label can still legally say just “Syrah” or “Shiraz.”
The last main scenario (though there are others, of course) is in the production of blush wines. Traditional rosés are made from the first press of red grapes, but some countries allow red plus white to equal pink.