DID YOU KNOW: In the U.S. and much of the world, as long as a wine consists of 75% or more of one varietal (i.e. Cabernet Sauvignon), it can be blended with other types of grapes (such as Merlot) and still be labeled as a Cabernet Sauvignon?
The advantages are multiple. First, most blends are stellar. Merlot softens Cab and balances-out that jammy, harsh quality that a Cab can have. To me, 10% Viognier (a white) added to 90% Shiraz (a red) produces a spectacular wine.
Second, growing several different varieties provides a safety-net for winegrowers—if one of their varietals is attacked by adverse growing conditions such as an incorrect amount of sun or too-cold/too-warm temperatures, they have a fall-back of other wines, and often the experimentation yields delightful results.
The drawback is that the 75% rule opens the door to “padding.” If a consumer is paying for, and really wants, a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, but it’s been blended with up to 25% other grapes, it should say so on the label. Again, I adore blends.
However, what if a winemaker is “watering down” the wine with something cheaper? or with eensy bits of yields that would otherwise have been discarded?
If it’s a blend, it really should be right there on the label. Most winemakers do that. On the other hand, some of the best blends I’ve tasted don’t bother! But as we Frugal Wine Snobs become more educated, it should be done as a matter of course. If law doesn’t require it, then good manners ought to. The consumer shouldn’t have to go online to find out the composition of the wine in the bottle. (We do that for you, by the way.)
The article linked here is excellent. To read the actual federal law, visit http://cfr.vlex.com/vid/4-23-varietal-grape-type-labeling-19674375.
This quirky corky illustration is from http://cabcab.weebly.com/wine-quiz.html. Question #2 on their wine quiz: “You spill your Merlot on your mother-in-law’s new white carpet. Quick, cover the stain with” … and the answer is, “The best home remedy is one part Blue Dawn detergent to two parts hydrogen peroxide. Effective on both old and new wine stains, it works because … um … we don’t know, but trust us, it does.”