Blending wine is easy:
- Gather some barrels of wine,
- Gather some friends to taste the wine,
- Blend the barrels you want together – done.
It should be easy,
But it isn’t and for reasons, you might not have considered.
A few days ago, we pulled 8 barrels of 2017 Cabernet Franc from the cellar since it is ready for bottling.
The goal was to identify 5 barrels that would get mixed together and go into the bottle, 1 barrel to go on tap and 2 barrels to be held in reserve for a Saint-Emilion style blend (Merlot and Cabernet Franc basis).
We started (at 11:00 am, someone has to do it…) with barrel #1 which was fruity, light and very easy drinking. Barrel #2 was also fruity but had more green vegetative notes and more tannins.
Barrels #3, #4, #5, and #6 were all very similar, with good structure, tannins, oak, complexity and flavor profile. Barrel #6 was slightly better than all of the other barrels we tasted.
Barrel #7 had less fruit, greener herbaceous notes (indicative of a Cab Franc) and moderate tannins with balanced tannins.
Barrel #8 was similar to the #3, #4, #5, and #6 but had its own nuances that were very interesting.
So, after tasting each barrel a couple of times, conversing, giving some wine to our business neighbors and their clients who were walking by and scratching our heads – it was time to make some decisions.
This is where it gets tough and we are only dealing with one varietal of wine, all of which came from the same vineyard, picked the same day, processed the same way, aged in the same place, but somehow each barrel was unique and distinct.
Option #1: Since barrel #6 was the best, put that on tap and use barrels #3, #4, #5, and what now?
Option #2: Blend barrels #3, #4, #5, #6, and ??? and put #1 or #8 on tap.
Option #3: Spend the rest of the afternoon drinking the barrels and decide the next day.
Option #4: Get everyone’s opinion – which all conflict – and draw straws.
One of the reasons that this is so difficult is that everyone has different preferences. Some like the green notes and want to highlight that, others want complexity, while others want balance and consistency. Some like the fruit, some like the tannins, and some like it all.
So as a winemaker, how do you decide?
Next week, I will explore this topic and tell you what and why we decided the way we did.
The Tasting Crew