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The Art Of Blending: All You Need To Know

The Art Of Blending: All You Need To Know


To blend or not to blend? This is the questions.

Some people struggle to understand the reasons why winemakers decide to blend or to not do it, and we honestly believe that a straightforward explanation is needed.

We would start by considering the well-known Bordeaux and its famous blend. Believe it or not, blending was a need here in this wet region. The moderate maritime climate doesn’t ensure a reliable weather pattern year after year like, let’s say, in Napa Valley. But how could they manage to make great wine then? The answer is by blending.

Relying on just one or two grape varieties is impossible for local winemakers here (or at least this would be a real risk…). As a result, they made a virtue of necessity and they started mastering the “art of blending”.

Whether you love it or not, we do believe that knowing the reason why a winemaker could choose to blend will give you a more critical approach and a more business-oriented perspective.

So, leave the romanticism aside, and read what blending is really about like you have never done before.

Figure 1: Blending, a process between art and science (, 2019)

Why To Blend

Leaving aside the endless dispute between Burgundian and Bordeaux winemakers, we want to share with you the REAL reasons why blending could be successful (and it’s required) in some instances.

First and foremost, blending can take place at any stage during the winemaking process. But it is mainly carried out after fermentation or during the maturation process. Secondly, blending isn’t only about making wine obtained by mixing two or three different grape varieties. It’s even about blending grapes from different sites and, especially, from different vintages. But it’s even about blending wine made from the same grape variety, the same site, and vintage which has undergone different winemaking practices.

For simplicity, we gathered these pieces of information in two main categories: Stylistic and Practical reasons. We have broken them down for you to give you a 360° view of this delicate and always-interesting topic.

We would specify that we didn’t read these things in any book, but what we wrote is the end of a thoughtful process of critical analysis we have been making over the years. Hope you will agree with our points and if you don’t, please feel free to leave a comment with your point of view.

Stylistic Reasons

  • To improve balance: As you might know, there are some backbone elements to take into consideration when it comes to wine: the structural components. Acidity, tannin, sugar, and alcohol are those elements that determine whether a wine is balanced or not. The best wines are those in which the structural components are all well-integrated. But reaching this requires a mix of factors which aren’t always given by Mother Nature: the right grapes, in the right climate, in the right vintage. Blending plays an important role when one of these elements is missing from the equation.
  • To ensure consistency: Blending to atteint consistency is a vital process since significant variation among the bottles of a single product can be seen as a fault. Wines matured in small barrels often develop in different ways from one barrel to another one. Thus, they need blending together in a large vat before bottling to smooth out the inconsistency. This happens with Sherry and the complex network of barrels involved in the solera system. Long story short, the wine which has been drawn off from, let’s say “criadera 1″ has to be mixed with the wines from the other “botas” of the same criadera before replenishing the wine drawn off from the solera row. We understand that this might sound hard if you aren’t familiar with the solera system, so if you want to familiarize yourself with it we suggest you read our article The Solera System: More Than Usual Fortified Wines.
Figure 2: The complex process of blending requires focus, skills, experience (Rebecca Bradley, 2018)
  • To guarantee the house style: Maintaining the “house style” of a product is pivotal for every winery, small or big. People don’t like to buy their favorite wine and realize that it’s completely different from the one they had tasted previously. Let’s say that someone invites you for dinner and you want to thank them for their nice thought. You might want to go for a prestigious bottle of champagne that has never disappointed you. But this time it tastes completely different from the one you used to enjoy so much. And we aren’t referring to a bottle with a fault. Would you be happy? We don’t believe so. Try to taste 10 bottles of the “entry-level” of the prestigious house Moët & Chandon that has been marketed the same year. We bet their house style will always be consistent and there won’t be any difference among them (unless one bottle is faulty).
  • To add complexity: Blending allows winemakers to reach more complexity. The same wine could be the result of a blend of different fractions, which have undergone different winemaking practices. For instance, a certain percentage of a fraction could be aged in small barrels, whereas the rest could undergo the aging in stainless steel tanks. Needless to say, the one matured in oak is going to be much more complex than the purer one coming from stainless steel. When the wine is deemed to be ready, winemakers can blend these wines according to the style they want to make. Generally speaking, this is more common with neutral varieties, such as Chardonnay, than with aromatic grapes such as Sauvignon Blanc. We drank the wines coming from the 7 vineyards sharing the Chablis Grand Cru appellation, and we realized this is a common practice in this district within the Yonne department. To name one, William Fèvre is only one of the top producers who do it.

Practical Reasons

  • Legal constraints: This is perhaps one of the most interesting perspectives about blending. It’s quite easy and straightforward but no one ever thinks about it. Some winemakers blend because they can and the legal framework doesn’t declassify their wines if they do so. Some others don’t do it because the legal framework in place isn’t allowing them to do so (if they want to obtain the highest recognition).
  • Vintage variations: Weather patterns aren’t always the same. Especially for those regions with a wet maritime climate, such as Bordeaux. Here blending is a necessity, especially to ensure the same house style year after year.
  • Efficiency: This is another pretty straightforward point that is usually forgotten (or perhaps no…?!) by many. Sometimes winemakers use whatever they have to make wine. Some vineyards have been passed down from generation to generation. It would cost time and money to replant those vineyards with another grape variety. Even if you practice head-grafting, which allows you to switch to a different variety between seasons (saving time), the cost would be still there. Many winemakers’ thought might be: “If no one did it before, why should I do it now giving up on revenue?”.
Figure 3: A nice draw to show how complex blending wine is (Rebecca Bradley, 2018)


Bordeaux has become a style for decades. When you think about Bordeaux, you already know what to expect. Besides, even if you are drinking a Cabernet Sauvignon blended with Merlot from Napa Valley, you won’t define it as “Napa Valley blend”, but “Bordeaux blend”.

Nowadays, so many expert winemakers are following suit, and finding an alternative to the classic Bordeaux blend isn’t unusual anymore (even more affordable if you know where to look at).

At the end of the day, having a winery is just like running any other business out there. Someone still thinks that there are old-school winemakers growing grapes for their own pleasure. Probably there are, but we are not sure they are among the ones making more profit out of it.

There is a common belief that winemakers in Bordeaux are more familiar with spreadsheets than grapes… To us, nothing can be more accurate than this statement (which anyway was made by Jancis Robinson in a famous video) because producers have really shown to be entrepreneurs more than winemakers when they decided to master the “art of blending”.

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