Getting to Know Red and White Wine Blends

Words: Karen Glanfield

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Whilst locally most wine drinkers prefer a single varietal wine, there is definitely reason to get excited about blends and investigate these further. Since winemaking is an art in itself, the act of blending is what allows the winemaker to express his or her talent and signature. Creating the blend might just be the most creative part of being a winemaker. It’s the moment where they get a chance to exercise their skills at flavour balancing.

Heavy wines can be softened by blending with a more elegant variety; while delicate, or even boring wines, can be given strength and body through the addition of a more substantial variety. Indeed, blends are some of the most complex and interesting wines to be enjoyed.

History plays a leading role in determining the world’s best wine blends. Traditionally, when different grape varieties grew side-by-side in the vineyard, winemakers would pick them at the same time, and pool them together for fermentation. However, over time, winemakers began to realise that fermenting varieties separately made for a more consistent recipe. Therefore, they began fermenting each grape variety in separate barrels and combined the different wines together afterwards in a vat called a ‘cuvée’. These cuvées were then sold and labelled from the regions where the grapes were grown. This is why, in old wine making countries, such as Italy and France, you’ll see wines named after a town.

Today, red and white wine blends can be found in all the wine regions of the world. A good starting point, however, is to look at the iconic French blends that have influenced local blending styles.

Bordeaux Blends

The famous red blends from Bordeaux always contain a combination of the following: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Petite Verdot and Cabernet Franc.
Winemakers generally choose two to three different grapes from the approved Bordeaux list but rarely use all five grapes.
The white blend from this area made of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon is also making big strides locally

Rhône Blends

France’s Rhône region blends up to 15 different grapes to make sublime red and white wines. These blends have taken off in USA and Australia as well. Primary grapes include Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Cinsault on the red side, and Viognier, Roussanne, Marsanne and Grenache Blanc for whites.

Cape Blends

What defines a red blend as a Cape blend? Between 30% and 70% Pinotage has to be blended with other varieties. As Pinotage is unique to South Africa, this is what makes a local red blend a Cape blend.
As discussed in our previous feature on Chenin Blanc, this grape is increasing in recognition and popularity in South Africa, and thus white blends made with Chenin Blanc as a component are commonly referred to as a white Cape Blend as well. Though nothing has been legislated in this regard as yet.

3 Facts You Should Know About Blends

Blends often offer more complexity in terms of flavour and texture than single varietal wines.

The goal of blending wine made from different varieties is to balance out the flavour characteristics.

Both reds and whites can be made from blends of varietals. In some cases, they may even blend whites and reds together in order to create the best possible combination of aromas and flavours.

A Selection of Great South African Blends

Asara Cape Fusion 2014

The inclusion of Malbec in Asara Cape Fusion makes this a more unusual take on the Cape Blend. Malbec performs especially well on the Asara property, and here it appears in equal proportion with Pinotage and Shiraz. Richly nutrient soils have been chosen for this vineyard, encouraging the deeply coloured, and flavoursome fruit to grow.
 The style of Pinotage sought for the Cape Fusion blend is fresh and elegant, thus the vines are grown at the highest altitude on the Asara property. The robustness behind the blend is a single block of Shiraz whose soils enable easy changes to irrigation regime.

 WINEMAKER  Daniëlle le Roux
 WO  Stellenbosch
 ON THE NOSE  A fresh profusion of rich summer berry fruit including raspberry and red currant with mocha oak whiffs.
 ON THE PALATE  Ripe red fruits persevere. Fresh and crisp with the oak and its  concomitant spices supporting the fruit and allowing it to shine.  The ending is dry with the perceived sweetness of the Malbec  lingering.
 WE LOVE IT WITH  Roast beef, lamb or pork. Try this recipe for Slow Roasted Lamb.
 PRICE  R112 

The Bernard Series Small Barrel SMV 2014

To his friends and family he was Pod, but to the Cape Winelands he was Bernard Podlashuk, the maverick winemaker. Never quite satisfied to be just ordinary, he is recognised for his daring vision, sheer audacity and unabated drive that helped place South African wine on the map. The legend of Bernard’s tenacity and innovative flair lives on through the Bernard series, Bellingham’s premium range of extraordinary wines.

 WINEMAKER  Niël Groenewald
 WO  Paarl
 ON THE NOSE  A mosaic of alluring black and red berry and cherry aromas layered with dark chocolate, winter spice, rose and violet.
 ON THE PALATE  An intricate intensely fruited palate that is both powerful and  graceful. A long, smooth, succulent finish of good length and  complexity.
 WE LOVE IT WITH  Roasted lamb, beef, spicy sausages or a tomato-based vegetable  ragout. Try this recipe for Tomato, Sausage and Bean Stew.
 PRICE  R 320

Buitenverwachting Christine 2011

This beautiful farm, on the east-facing slopes of the magnificent Constantiaberg and barely 12km from False Bay, originally formed part of the Constantia Estate, which was founded by Simon van der Stel, the first Governor of the new Dutch colony at the tip of Africa. Imbued with a sense of history, the Mueller family has retraced the roots of Buitenverwachting. The farm was lovingly restored to its former glory while extensive planting of the most selected of cultivars was initiated. The result was a maiden grape harvest of 100 tonnes – the first harvest the farm had seen in 30 years. A historic achievement that lived up to its name: Buitenverwachting “Beyond Expectation”. Bordeaux style blend from 55% Cabernet Sauvignon & 45% Cabernet Franc.

 WINEMAKER  Brad Paton
 WO  Constantia
 ON THE NOSE  The wine offers rich red fruit characters reminiscent of ripe cherry  and black currant with dark chocolate and tobacco undertones.
 ON THE PALATE  Concentrated dark fruit, fresh acidity and firm, grippy tannins.  Lively fruit weight and overall power with its defining character  being its very long, dry finish.
 WE LOVE IT WITH  Rib-eye steak, game meats and game fish. Try this recipe for Rib-  Eye Steak and Bone Marrow
 PRICE  R 350


Buitenverwachting Christine 2011
Rib eye Steak With Bone Marrow & Red Wine Sauce

Landskroon Paul de Villiers Reserve 2015

The land for Landskroon Wine Estate was granted in 1692. The Estate, owned for 5 generations by the de Villiers family, is on the south western slopes of the Paarl Mountain, named for the three large granite rocks on top which shine likes pearls in the sun after rain. This Reserve wine is made from 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Cabernet Franc & 18% Merlot.

 WINEMAKER  Michiel du Toit
 WO  Paarl
 ON THE NOSE  Blackcurrants, fynbos herbs, graphite filing and an undertow of  supporting oak.
 ON THE PALATE  Rich complex flavours which slowly unwind from a firm core. A  generosity of fruit, blueberries, roadside brambles and cassis.  Beautiful full palate with well-integrated tannins. Perfect harmony  from entry to the long dry elegant aftertaste.
 WE LOVE IT WITH  Meats and cheeses. Try this recipe for Rare Roast Beef with  Red Wine and Cranberry Sauce
 PRICE  R115

Spier Creative Block 3 2014

Going since 1692, Spier is one of South Africa’s oldest wine farms, with a fascinating history and a legacy that the owners never take for granted. Today the farm has a modern, conscious energy. Focused on art and good farming, Spier is about farm-to-table food and accoladed wines. Its people are committed to living and working in ways that bring positive change to our environment and community. The Creative Block 3 is comprised of 93% Shiraz, 4% Mourvèdre & 3% Viognier.

 WINEMAKER  Johan Jordaan
 WO  Coastal Region
 ON THE NOSE  Subtle perfumed notes of violets, pomegranate and mulberry
 ON THE PALATE  The floral and fruit notes are followed by spicy flavours of black  pepper and coriander. A silky, rich mid-palate complemented with  a concentration of fruit and dense, silky tannins.
 WE LOVE IT WITH  A smoked pork belly or a mildly spicy Indian-style veg curry. Try  this recipe for Aubergine Thai Curry.
 PRICE  R 149


Aubergine Thai Curry

Hidden Valley Sauvignon Blanc / Viognier 2016

Hidden Valley has a rich history, and, combined with its commitment to “working with nature” is a proud member of the Biodiversity and Wine Initiative. The winery is a state of the art, gravity fed cellar built from stone, wood and glass – all purposely selected to present a contemporary yet functional structure. The cellar is surrounded by vineyards, olive groves, almond orchards and fynbos gardens, each occupying an integral part of the farms’ ecosystem.

 WINEMAKER  Annalie van Dyk
 WO  Stellenbosch
 ON THE NOSE  This aromatic wine offers orange blossom and tropical fruits.
 ON THE PALATE  Well rounded with perfume and peachy notes from the Viognier,  complimented by the Sauvignon blanc offering freshness and a  long, lingering finish of grapefruit and lime.
 WE LOVE IT WITH  Spicy foods such as a seafood curry. Try this Thai Mussel dish.
 PRICE  R170

Rall White Blend 2015

Rall wines was established in 2008 and is owned and run by young independent winemaker Donovan Rall. The focus was always going to be on one white and one red blend produced by hand in tiny quantities from the most unique and oldest possible sites he could find. With this in mind the first 10 barrels of Rall wines was made in 2008 and a few years down the line nothing has changed. Production is still tiny and the focus remains on the 2 wines, learning and understanding more about each vineyard and its contribution every vintage. Made from a blend of Chenin Blanc, Verdelho, Chardonnay & Viognier.

 WINEMAKER  Donovan Rall
 WO  Coastal Region
 ON THE NOSE  Creamy, with notes of white peach lime, lemon and pineapple and a   well-balanced a lick of oak.
 ON THE PALATE  A very mineral core from the dominating Swartland Chenin Blanc.  The rich, broad texture and floral notes are derived from the  Verdelho and Viognier. Finishes on a confident balanced note.
 WE LOVE IT WITH  Seafood and Asian inspired dishes. Try this recipe for Thai  Mussels with Chilli & Coconut
 PRICE  Not available.

Bizoe Henrietta 2014

Derived from the French word Bisous – meaning little kiss – the Bizoe boutique wines will offer just that, something that you just can’t forget! The name Henrietta commands stature and wealth. German of origin the name translates as “ruler of the house”. This delicate blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc is dedicated to the ruler of their house Henrietta Neethling. Limited edition wine with only 2 700 bottles produced.

 WINEMAKER  Rikus Neethling
 WO  Western Cape
 ON THE NOSE  Delicately perfumed with fresh, fleshy tropical fruit aromas.
 ON THE PALATE  Great complexity and flavour definition in a super-light frame. True  finesse derived from being matured in oak barrels for 7 months.
 WE LOVE IT WITH  Seafood. Try this Red Goan Fish Curry.
 PRICE   R160

Want to learn about other wine varietals? Check out what we had to say about Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc.

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