Beer & Wine Wine

Red Blends: What to Know and 6 Bottles to Try

Love Bordeaux? You’re already a fan of red blends.

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Red Blends: What to Know and 6 Bottles to Try / Laura Sant

The phrase “red blend” refers to red wines that are made from different types of grapes blended together, rather than a wine made from just one single type of grape. Red blends are produced all over the world from an array of grape varieties. In certain areas of the world, red blends are actually more common than monovarietal (or single-grape) wines. Popular blend-heavy regions include the Bordeaux region of France, parts of California, the Douro Valley in Portugal, and Rioja in Spain.

What Grapes Are Red Blends Made From?

Red blends can be produced from any red grape variety. However, certain grapes like pinot noir, gamay, and nebbiolo are generally vinified into monovarietal wines and are not frequently used in blends. Other red grapes are more frequently associated with certain regional blends. For example, blends from Bordeaux’s Left Bank are dominated by cabernet sauvignon, whereas Right Bank blends are produced from merlot-heavy bases. Red blends from Rioja are crafted mostly with tempranillo, and other Spanish red blends and many Portuguese ones are produced from what are called “field blends,” made with many native varieties of grapes. 

What Do Red Blends Taste Like?

Red blends fall all over the flavor profile spectrum, and their final flavor profiles will mostly be determined by the grape varieties and vinification techniques used to make them. For example, cabernet-heavy blends will generally be full-bodied and flavor-packed, whereas merlot-dominant blends will be smoother and silkier. Not sure which grapes make up a specific blend? Ask your trusty sommelier or local wine retailer for further details on a bottle. Alternatively, doing a quick online search on the distributor’s website is always a surefire way to find helpful information about a particular bottle. Simply look at the wine’s back label to find out who imports and/or distributes the bottle—their website will have all the answers you need.)

What Are Good Food Pairings with Red Blends?

Due to their versatility, red blends pair with a wide variety of dishes, and choosing a food based on the specific flavor profile of a given wine will lead to the best pairing. In general, red blends are great with pizza, meat-heavy dishes, and pasta with red sauce, as well as charcuterie boards, hearty stews, and juicy burgers.

These are 6 bottles to try.

Château Coutet St. Emilion

Château Coutet St. Emilion / Laura Sant

Wines from Bordeaux are all about the blends, and this Right Bank stunner is perfect for drinking now, laying down for aging, or both. St. Emilion wines are all about merlot. Rounded out with 30% cabernet franc and a smidge of cabernet sauvignon and malbec, this silky-smooth wine oozes with flavors of ripe blue and black fruits, crushed blackberries, currants, tobacco, and a hint of sweet spice. Château Coutet has more than 400 years of history; today, all of its vineyards are farmed organically.

Domaine du Pélican 'Trois Cépages' Arbois

Domaine du Pélican 'Trois Cépages' Arbois / Laura Sant

This domaine is the Jura project of Burgundian winemaker Guillaume d’Angerville, whose namesake pinot noirs from Volnay have captured the hearts and palates of wine drinkers worldwide. This juicy, easier-drinking bottle is produced from a blend of trousseau, poulsard, and pinot noir. High in acid and restrained in alcohol, this fruit-driven bottle oozes with peppery notes of cranberries, cherries, and crunchy red fruits. Enjoy it chilled with a variety of meats and cheeses.

La Antigua Clásico Reserva

La Antigua Clásico Reserva / Laura Sant

Produced by winemaker Alberto Orte, this classic Rioja is a benchmark example of what full-bodied well-balanced red blends from northern Spain should be. The fruit for this wine comes from the western mountain range of Sierra de la Demanda, which is one of Rioja’s less-explored regions. Crafted from an organically farmed blend of 70% tempranillo, 20% graciano, and 10% garnacha, this fresh and balanced wine jumps with flavors of red and dark fruits, tobacco, vanilla, and a hint of smoke. Four years of aging, two of which were done in 60% French oak and 40% American oak, add warming notes of sweet baking spice to the wine’s long-lasting finish. Serve it slightly chilled with hearty meats and stews.

Luis Seabra Vinhos Xisto Ilimitado Tinto

Luis Seabra Vinhos Xisto Ilimitado Tinto / Laura Sant

In the heart of Portugal’s Douro Valley, former Niepoort winemaker Luis Seabra is making exciting wines. Unlike the plethora of fruit bombs found in the region, his are low-intervention wines with high acid and modest alcohol. Xisto Ilimitado is a field blend crafted from six varieties planted across three schist-based subzones of the Douro, produced using 100% whole cluster fermentation with natural yeasts and aged for 12 months in neutral barrel and five months in tank prior to bottling. Expect flavors of pomegranate, cherry juice, white pepper, and freshly cut herbs to lead to a refreshing finish.

Macari Dos Aguas Red Blend

Macari Dos Aguas Red Blend / Laura Sant

Meaning “two waters” in Spanish, this tasty red blend pays homage to the two great bodies of water that surround the estate’s North Fork vineyards: the Great Peconic Bay and the Long Island Sound. This merlot-dominant blend (60%) is vinified with cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, and petit verdot, similar to the great red wines of Bordeaux’s Right Bank. Notes of ripe plums, vanilla, cassis, and dark cherries are marked by polished tannins and refreshing acidity, making this wine a fantastic pairing with mushrooms, lamb, and grilled burgers.

Monte Rio Cellars Skull Red Blend

Monte Rio Cellars Skull Red Blend / Laura Sant

Founded by former sommelier and wine director Patrick Cappiello, this California producer creates responsibly produced wines at affordable prices. This red blend is crafted from 100% whole-cluster fermented petite sirah, mission, and zinfandel grapes. All the fruit is organic, yeasts are native, and no sulfur is used during the winemaking process. Notes of crushed raspberries, sour cherries, and dried herbs lead to a lip-puckering finish. If gamay-based wines from Beaujolais or crunchy reds from the Jura are your thing, this bottle is definitely worth a try.

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