|Posted by bruce-bradley on July 5, 2013 at 10:15 AM|
First Posted In June of 2012
TO BLEND OR NOT TO BLEND…
For many years, during my winemaking career, I was a purist. Like many people I believed that wine that was 100% of a certain varietal was superior to wines that had to have (key phrase—had to have) other wines blended in. In the 1990’s I worked as Assistant Winemaker, then Winemaker for Mario Perelli-Minetti. Mario didn’t own his own vineyards, but I always felt that was an advantage. It allowed me to go out and contract for the best fruit the Napa Valley had to offer, which was saying something. It takes good fruit to make good wine.
Mario Perelli-Minetti was born in his father’s vineyard in Healdsburg, Ca. in March of 1909. He was famous for a number of things: He was an impeccable dresser; he was youthful—still personally delivering cases of wine well into his nineties, and he made an exceptional (if under-appreciated)100% Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Because we bought our grapes, we were able to procure some of the best fruit the valley had to offer, and we managed not to screw it up. In the words of Mario’s famed father,Antonio Perelli-Minetti, who was considered to be the Dean of California Winemakers at the time of his death, in 1976:
“Great wine is made in the vineyard.”
Unfortunately, Mario always under valued his own wine. In the mid-1990’s, when wines of comparable value were selling for $60 - $100.00 per bottle, Mario sold his wine for $12.00. Public perception was that it was a cheap wine. Among those who were in the know, however, Mario had his own cult following.
As for myself, I was sold on the idea of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. I’d spent twenty years working with and making Cabs and, in my opinion, nothing could be better than taking the best of the best of all the grapes and keeping it pure. To me, anything less would be tantamount to say, taking Prime Rib and somehow combining it with Chuck Roast. It made no sense to me to cheapen or lessen a Cabernet Sauvignon by blending it with another type of varietal.
That opinion was about to change.
Over much of the past decade I worked as Winemaker for William Harrison Winery. While there I worked very closely with fellow winemaker/consultant Phillip Titus (Titus and Chappellet wineries). Now, when you’re paying a consultant, it’s a good idea to listen to what they have to offer, otherwise your money is wasted. And Phillip is famous for blending. At Wm. Harrison we conducted hundreds of blending trials and blind tastings. I can honestly say that not once in all those tastings did the control wine (which was 100% Cabernet Sauvignon) come in first. It’s amazing, but 5% of Malbec or 10% Petit Verdot or Merlot blended in will change the complexity of the wine and ultimately, improve the flavor and the aroma, and sometimes the color as well. It happened each and every time. Again, these were blind tastings, usually with 4-6 tasters inattendance.
Sooo, there you have it. It’s all about the quality of the wine, folks. If you want to get the best out of your grapes, you need to blend!
Call me a convert.