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Dear Dr. Vinny,

I saw a very nice review of 14 Hands Hot to Trot Red Columbia Valley 2014. If there were 795,000 cases made, that's nearly 2 million gallons. How do I know a wine that Wine Spectator reviewed is the same blend as the wine on the shelf at the store?

—Paul N., Taylors, S.C.

Dear Paul,

I went straight to the source on this one: 14 Hands winemaker Keith Kenison. Here's what he had to say: “Great question. The short answer is, yes, the wine is the same blend. Being a larger winery means we have some very large blending tanks at our disposal, but we can’t blend all of that wine simultaneously. So, we create smaller base blends of different components and then draw smaller volumes of those bases into what we call ‘master blends,’ with each master having the same proportion of each base. At the end of it all, there will be a handful of master blends but they'll all have the same components in the same ratios.”

It comes down to a lot of math. But during blending sessions, winemakers work with small quantities of wine—beakers and pipettes and such—to come up with the right blend. Once that formula is determined, the ratio of the components can be replicated over and over. The wine doesn’t need to be mixed all together all at once.

Technically, the wine doesn’t have to be the exact same, as long as the wine inside matches the information on the label. But I think most brands want to create consistent products—especially value wines which are likely to be purchased multiple times and enjoyed regularly. Moreover, every winemaker I’ve ever met has spent a lot of time coming up with the master blend. It’s definitely a point of pride!

—Dr. Vinny

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