What is Wine?
From a layman’s point of view: wine is the oldest, most delicious, varied and complicated drink in the world. It will cheer you up, make your friends and acquaintances friendlier, and taste superb with food.
The official version: Wine is an alcoholic beverage obtained from the fermentation of wine grapes. Fermentation normally takes place in the district of origin according to local practices and traditions but could vary drastically as the winemaker experiment with new techniques.
The difference between wine grapes and table grapes: wine grapes are smaller, sweeter with more seeds than table grapes.
Varietal and Blended Wines
When a wine is made from a single grape variety, it is called a varietal wine. When made from two or more varieties, it is a blended wine. A Classic example are the two great French styles, Burgundy and Bordeaux. Burgundy red wine is composed of a single variety grape, Pinot Noir. Bordeaux red is most often a blend of up to six varieties, Cabernet sauvignon, Cabernet franc, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Carmenere. There are some Bordeaux wines that are varietals, but they are just exceptions that proves the rule.
Today the difference between blends and varietals are much more difficult to distinguish as many varietals are actually regional blends. A winemaker may collect samples of a variety from various regions and make a varietal blended from those regions. Then some varietals will be a blend of several vintages, so the term “Varietal” is more an indication of a single variety grape, not necessarily a wine made from a single variety from the same block or region.
There are many “New World” (non-Europe) wine makers when blending wines, are trying their best to emulate the European blends, the problem with that, is that there is no other region like Bordeaux for example. Suffice to say, there is not a terroir outside of Bordeaux that looks exactly like Bordeaux.
Blended wines can be a lot smoother and softer than varietals. A beautiful soft blend that comes to mind is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. By adding Merlot, any intense Cabernet will smooth out and deliver a wonderful drinking wine for may occasions.
Should You Care?
If you like a blend, go for it! Should you wish to extend your wine knowledge and enhance your wine experience, you need to try a varietal on a regular basis. Should you stay on a Cabernet/Merlot blend, you will never know if you are tasting the Cabernet or the Merlot, you need to try them separately as well to understand the grape.
Wine as a wonderful road trip for your taste buds. The discovery of flavours along the way will open your mind to a whole new world. A good wine is the one that pleases you as we are all creatures with different habits and ideas. When you discover a wine that pleases you, celebrate that, but keep on trying new wines to expand your repertoire.