By Lisa Hinton
A great wine is the sum of many details. And skillful winemaking calls countless delicate notes and nuances into harmony. The goal of “blending” is to create distinctive wines that are balanced, reflect the vineyard and vintage, and mostly, are a pleasure to drink!
In the cellar, winemakers are careful to treat each lot of grapes – and subsequently the wine – individually to create and preserve a unique personality. Each lot is much like a puzzle piece belonging to a beautiful landscape; a single thread woven through a brilliant tapestry. Blending is the art and science of creating a wine that is stunningly delicious and an artistic sum of its many parts.
Bordeaux is the quintessence of wine blending. In the Médoc, a subregion of Bordeaux, for example, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot are the usual suspects. These varieties are always blended -- each variety bringing a unique characteristic to the table.
Our blending consultant at Old Westminster Winery is Lucien Guillemet, the winemaker at Chateau Boyd-Cantenac, a Grand Cru Classé Chateau in Margaux. Lucien visits us in Maryland twice a year to taste, deliberate, and blend. His expertise acts as a sounding board. Multiple skilled palates are a key to the successful blending process.
Where we begin
Armed with a few wine glasses, a pipette, a graduated cylinder and a spittoon, we set out to assemble a masterpiece.
We taste each lot separately and take detailed notes on aromas, flavors, structure and overall quality. We consider our goals for each blend and start blending a few wines that we suspect will play well together.
We again take detailed notes.
We tweak the blend.
We ask: Do we like the direction this wine is going? We continue to adjust the percentages of each wine in the blend until we find the proportions that sing -- it’s often quite obvious!
The finish line
The process is finished once every individual lot has a home in a stunning wine. Rough blends are typically compiled over a few long intensive days. However, we revisit these wines over the ensuing weeks, hypothesize and tweak. We share finished, but not yet bottled, blends with our distributors, sommeliers and restaurateurs for feedback.
For us, the passion and pursuit of making great wines isn’t merely occupation. It’s life! And since knowledge is key to appreciation, we are passionate to share everything we’ve learned over these years and travels to cultivate a wine culture in Maryland. We do this by sharing our secrets and teaching our friends through hands-on learning experiences.
Interested in Maryland’s emerging wine culture? Join the Cru!
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