Red blends to relax with
Whilst most wine drinkers prefer a single varietal wine, I am a firm advocate of blends. Since winemaking is an art in itself, the act of blending is what allows the winemaker to express his or her talent and signature.
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.
Red wine blends can be found in all the wine regions of the world. A good starting point would be the iconic French blends that have influenced local blending styles.
• The famous 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, if ever, use all five grapes.
• Carillonade Bordeaux – from the Checkers World of Wine range, this Bordeaux is a dominant, recognizably French wine due to its austerity and perfumed sophistication. Delicate cassis, sweet and sour cherry, subtle savoury/iron character, sage, with a hint of old oak.
• Rustenberg John X Merriman – a blend of all five Bordeaux varieties from one of the great names in Cape wine history. Upfront character of dark red berries and plums followed by cigar box aromatics, which evolve into cedar and pencil shavings on the palate, with firm tannins.
• France's Rhône region blends up to 15 different grapes to make sublime red and white wines. Primary grapes include Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cinsault and Viognier.
• Côtes du Rhone Les Ménines – from the Checkers World of Wine range, it is an expressive blend of predominantly Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault. Vibrant plums, ripe blue berries, spicy nutmeg, cloves and dried rosemary with subtly supportive oak and a medium body.
• Kleine Zalze Shiraz/Mourvèdre/Viognier – a New World blend of largely Shiraz and Mourvèdre with a splash of Viognier. Complex red fruit and spice aromas with a savoury wild berry finish on the palate. Touches of honeysuckle fruit from the Viognier are well integrated with the French oak tannins to give the wine a long, velvety finish.
• What defines a red blend as a Cape blend? Between 30% and 70% Pinotage has to be blended with other varieties. And as Pinotage is unique to South Africa, this is what makes a local red blend a Cape blend.
• Warwick Three Cape Ladies – named in honour of three generations of women at Warwick. The blend of rich Pinotage, classic blackcurrant and liquorice Cabernet Sauvignon, and spicy, peppery Syrah, complement each other with full-bodied ripe tannins.