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The Magic of Blending
Most of us are accustomed to buying wine made in the U.S. by the name of the grape such as Merlot, Tempranillo, and Viognier. However, wine made in other major wine regions, such as Bordeaux and the Rhône Valley of France label their wine by region rather than by grape variety. These wines are made with a blend of several varieties of grapes with complementary characteristics to create wine whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
At Pedernales Cellars we make wine in both ways: with single varietal wines, as well as wines that are a blend of several grapes. Generally, all of our white wines are made with one grape varietal except the Lyla. We make seven to ten red blends each vintage such as our Rhône-style GSM Mélange. There are advantages to making wine in both ways. However, blending wine is where a winemaker can really show off their artistry.
Pedernales Cellars has an extensive program to determine which lots of grapes are blended to make our final wines. We taste through each wine lot countless times and at regular intervals throughout the year while the wine is aging. Each time we taste we take detailed notes of each wine's strengths and weaknesses, aromatics, structure, and aging potential. By the time we are ready to begin blending, these records help guide the process
The 2020 growing season had challenges, and we harvested less fruit or no fruit from many of our long-time vineyard partners. To augment that reduction, we secured fruit from several new vineyards, which has become an exciting opportunity to experiment with blending (or not) wines with different qualities than “usual.”. We’ve been getting Teroldego from Narra Vineyards for the last couple of years, but also received some Teroldego from Pepper Jack Vineyards in 2020. This vineyard is 40 miles further north of Narra, and while both lots share the same rich black fruit, opaque color, and velvety tannins, the Pepper Jack Teroldego has a distinct minerality to it. We are excited to share both with our guests and look forward to hearing their reactions to these lovely and unique wines.
Sometimes we blend grapes that complement each other to make a complex wine. Other times we make a blend to highlight a specific grape.
Better Together Blends
One of our blends that we make each vintage, the GSM Mélange, is going to be awesome for the 2020 vintage. It is equal parts Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre this year. We’ve had stellar Syrah the past few years, and it is marrying beautifully with the Grenache and Mourvèdre from the High Plains. We also harvested some great Montepulciano from a new-to-us grower, that will be blended into our Valhalla.
Star of the Show Blends
An example of blending to highlight a specific grape is our Reserve Tempranillo. While Tempranillo is the main grape, we add in other grapes to accentuate various qualities. For example, the 2018 Tempranillo Reserve is comprised of 77% Tempranillo, 12% Touriga, and 11% Graciano. Touriga and Graciano help boost the structure and complexity of Tempranillo, without overpowering it.
The first wines to be blended are our “Reserve” wines – this ensures we have all our highest quality lots available to make these wines special The Reserve Tempranillo is started with our highest quality Tempranillo lot, and then we blend in traditional pieces to complement those grapes. We look for qualities for proper body, alcohol levels, and primary tastes that are characteristic of exceptional Tempranillo. We want medium to higher tannins, balanced medium to high acidity with acidity for a complex structure, as well as the rich cherry flavors that are characteristic of Tempranillo.
I’m excited about our 2020 vintage as we had several vineyards produce excellent fruit with intense flavors and structure. We have three additional grape varietals that are excellent blending components that increase the age-worthiness of the wine while making sure it is approachable to drink right away. We’ll blend Tempranillo grapes with Graciano, a traditional blending grape used in Rioja, Spain that adds beautiful aromatics, along with Cinsault for softness, and Alicante Bouschet to give the wine a deep, rich color. This year we chose to co-ferment the Alicante Bouschet with the Cinsault because the two had complementary chemistry that bring out the best in each other.
The actual percentage of each varietal used to make the final wine is selected to ensure that the wine tastes varietally correct with vibrant fruit flavors, proper complexity, and excellent structure with a balance of tannin, acid, and texture. We haven’t finalized the blend for our 2020 Tempranillo Reserve yet but will probably use three different lots of Tempranillo for approximately 75% of the wine with the remainder made up of Graciano, and the Alicante Bouschet / Cinsault blend. Over the course of two weeks, we will conduct at least five and up to ten blending trials with the winemaking team evaluating various ratios to determine the final blend. We’re confident that it will be an outstanding wine.
While you are waiting for the 2020 wines to be available, you can satisfy your thirst with our 2018 Tempranillo Reserve. It’s a perfect wine to share during the holidays. Because it is food-friendly, and a stand-out wine, we have included it in the Texas Fine Wine 2021 Holiday Pack. Orders placed by December 8 will arrive in time for Christmas.