What is a "field blend"?

Ask Dr Vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.

Dear Dr. Vinny,

In the Douro, several varietals are often planted in the same vineyard and vinified together in a "field blend." Does that mean wine made from that vineyard has the same percentage of each varietal every year, or is the winemaker able to vary it by separating grapes by varietal at harvest?

—Fred, La Cañada, Calif.

Dear Fred,

You have the basics down of what makes a field blend: more than one grape variety planted together in the same vineyard. Field blends happen all over the world, though they're now rare. In the past, before folks fretted about varietals or clones, they just planted different grapes in their vineyard as an inexpensive (yet limiting) way to blend wines. All the grapes are harvested at the same time and fermented together—a true field blend doesn't separate by varietals at harvest; the "blend" is whatever Nature gives that vintage.

Modern winemakers generally prefer to plant and pick each variety separately, knowing that they don't always ripen evenly. Sometimes a winemaker will ferment multiple grapes together (a practice called co-fermentation), which invokes the spirit of field blends. But most winemakers blend different lots of wine together after the fermentation is finished to better control the process.

—Dr. Vinny

Ask Dr. Vinny

More In Dr. Vinny

What’s the difference between Brix, Baumé, Oechsle and residual sugar?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains why measuring sugar content in grapes is so …

Jan 18, 2021

Will my wines get too cold in the garage?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny covers the pitfalls of storing wine in the garage, …

Jan 11, 2021

Dr. Vinny's 25 Top Answers to 'What's the Difference Between …?'

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny offers disambiguations for wine topics far and wide.

Jan 4, 2021

Dr. Vinny's Most Interesting Questions of 2020

Wine Spectator's resident wine expert, Dr. Vinny, revisits the most thoughtful questions …

Dec 31, 2020

Dr. Vinny Answers Your Pandemic Questions (About Wine)

Wine Spectator's resident wine expert, Dr. Vinny, revisits all your questions about wine …

Dec 28, 2020

Why is the name “Sauvignon” attached to both red Cabernet Sauvignon and white Sauvignon Blanc?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains the relationship between Cabernet Sauvignon and …

Dec 21, 2020