How is a large-production wine blended together to ensure uniformity?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

When winemakers make blends, especially large-production ones, there can't possibly be one container large enough to hold the entire production of that blend, so how is it all mixed together to ensure uniformity? When Wine Spectator reviews a wine, how can the consumer be sure that their bottle will be the same blend as the one reviewed?

—Jim H., Knoxville, Tenn.

Dear Jim,

I’ve been to huge wineries, where wine tanks can be three stories high. And if you’re mixing wine from a three-story tank with another wine from a three-story tank to come up with the final product, it’s hard to imagine how it all works. A six-story tank?

Math to the rescue! During blending sessions, winemakers deal with small quantities of wine—bringing out beakers and pipettes to measure the details. A final blend is a bit of a recipe of ratios for the component parts. One part tank A to two parts tank B and three parts tank C, and so on. With the magic of math, there’s no need to mix all the wine together all at once before bottling—they simply blend the wine in batches according to the desired ratio.

That said, as I’ve written before, as long as the wine inside matches the information on the label, a winery is not compelled to make the same batch of wine every single time. But I think that most brands do, and not just because I’m an optimist. It’s in every brand’s interest to be consistent, particularly with mass-produced wine. I’m much more likely to buy multiple bottles of a wine I like that costs $10 vs. one that costs $100. But if those multiple bottles of $10 wine—which I’m likely to taste in a pretty short amount of time, since I’m not cellaring them to age—don’t taste like each other, they are going to lose a customer.

—Dr. Vinny

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