Log In / Join Now

Ask Dr. Vinny

Do you have a question for Dr. Vinny? Ask it here...

Dear Dr. Vinny,

The other night I knew I needed about four bottles of red for a get-together. I decided to open three bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon and a bottle of Cabernet Franc. I blended a little of each in a glass, tried it, played with the amounts, and finally decided to just throw all four bottles together and serve it that night. Everyone really liked it.

Is this a crazy idea? Major party foul? We enjoy wine and are trying to learn more about it. I don’t want to go down a path that insults the traditions and terroir. But if we like some of the flavors of two $12 bottles of wine on their own, but are more intrigued by how they may taste together, do you think that is a really bad idea?

—Louis L., Jefferson City, Mo.

Dear Louis,

From time to time I get letters like yours about people making experimental wine cocktails. I usually feel—like I did when I read your letter—that I can sense your excitement and interest in wine, and I’m all for whatever turns you on, oenologically speaking.

Is it a party foul? No, I don’t think so, unless you played some sort of game of “gotcha” where you tried to trick your guests into guessing what they were drinking. But if you served the wine in good faith and told them you’d been experimenting with blends, then I think it’s mostly fine and only a little bit weird.

I’m sure some wines out there can be enhanced by blending them with other wines, and if you enjoy dealing with the variables of not just varietals, but producers, appellations, vineyards and vintages and all the combinations thereof, more power to you.

But you asked me for advice, so here goes: Not every wine will improve this way, and yes, you do risk losing nuances and an understanding about the wines you’re drinking. I’m not sure if you realize this, but just because a wine says “Cabernet Sauvignon” on it, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. Rules vary around the world, but it can include as much as 25 percent of other grapes—which means your understanding of how blending works for you in your own glass isn’t as transparent as you might think.

I hope that you’re not opening wines just to blend them, and that you’re also taking a moment to evaluate each wine and watch it evolve on its own. If you’re not, try pouring just a few ounces of each wine into a separate glass and revisit them a couple of hours later to see how your initial opinion changes. While I’m all for you refining your blending skills, I’d like you to learn more about a wine beyond using it as an ingredient for something else.

—Dr. Vinny

Wine Basics

We break down the basics—how to taste, serve, store and more. Plus:
» Maps of major wine regions
» Grape variety characteristics

How-to Videos

Learn to taste wine like a pro, pull a cork with flair, get great wine service in a restaurant and more

Wine Spectator School: All courses are FREE for WineSpectator.com Members

Learn from the experts and get the most out of each sip. Take one of our online courses or take them all—from the ABCs of Tasting to in-depth seminars on Food Pairing, California Cabernet, Bordeaux, Tuscany, Sensory Evaluation and more.

Browse our course catalog
Check out the professional wine sales and service courses
Learn Wine Forum: Got questions? Get answers

WineRatings+ app: Download now for 365,000+ ratings.