Is it true that a wine with only one grape on the label may not be made from just that grape?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

When do I have to consider a wine a blend? Is there a specific percentage when it is considered as a blend, or still “pure” wine? I have seen wines with 93 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 7 percent Carmenere, but the label just says “Cabernet Sauvignon.”

—Graciela A., Manhattan, Kan.

Dear Graciela,

The vast majority of wines out there are made from more than one type of grape blended together, but reading a wine label won’t always clarify what you’re drinking. Labeling laws in the United States are such that for a wine to be listed as a single varietal, like Cabernet Sauvignon, a minimum of 75 percent of the wine has to be made from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. The other 25 percent can be made up of any other combination of grapes, and labels aren’t required to list what’s there.

I don’t know if it’s fair to say that blending makes a wine any less “pure.” Some winemakers blend in other grapes to make a stronger, more complex wine, or to add an element they feel is missing—say, color or an aromatic component. Others like to focus on single-vineyard bottlings, and a vineyard may have more than one grape variety planted. You’ll find that many producers are pretty up-front about what types of grapes go into their wines, and if it’s not on the back label of the bottle, the information might be on the winery’s website.

—Dr. Vinny

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