I never used to understand the virtues of blending wines. I firmly believed in my early days that if I made wine from elderberries or blackberries then it must be from these alone, without any addition of any sort.
I felt that if I could not make a good wine from these fruits alone, I had no business making wines at all. Besides, I believed that wine must be labelled according to the fruit used. However, my early prejudice against blending has been completely knocked for six by modern arguments and practice. Blending either the ingredients or the finished wines is now common and it is very often the only means of achieving particular results.
This is not to say that top-class wines are not to be obtained from a single ingredient: they certainly are. For example, English wild and garden fruits and concentrated grape juice make top-class wines that satisfy the most educated palates without other ingredients being used. However, many ingredients do not make good wines by themselves. Take roots and flowers, for example. They must be blended with other ingredients, such as citrus fruits and dried fruits. Today all good recipes include either or both of these with the basic ingredients. The end product is what counts. Bananas too must be blended with other ingredients. To obtain special results, blending the finished wines is often the only answer. And it is very often the only means of correcting faults.
Very many wine-makers make large amounts of individual wines for the sole purpose of blending them. They make, for example, a large batch of dry wine, which is always the easiest to make. They keep, say, 5 ltr (1 gall) of this as dry. Then they blend the second 5 ltr (1 gall) of the batch with a sweet wine made with different fruit to give them a medium-sweet wine of a varied type, and blend, say, a third 5 ltr (1 gall) with some other wine. In this way, they know from experience that they will obtain the special results they are after which could not be produced in any other way, not even by blending the various fruits before making the wines.
Blending needs common sense and a sense of purpose. It is no use at all adding one wine to another just to see what happens. Due consideration should be given not only to what you want but also to whether the wines you are considering blending will give the results you are aiming at. Can I help you in this respect? I cannot, simply because I do not know what you are likely to want to achieve by blending.
All I can do is to tell you which wines will blend well to prevent you spoiling several good wines. On no account blend for the sake of blending as this sort of thing can lead to disappointment.
The simplest and the best way of blending is by using several glasses. For instance, take three rows of three glasses (a dilution of one in three will probably be quite enough for most blending purposes). In the first glass of each row put one teaspoonful of the first wine. In the second glass of each row put two teaspoonfuls of the first wine, and in the third, three. Then add one teaspoonful of the second wine to each glass in the first row (this will give you blends of 1: 1; 2: 1; and 3: 1). Add two teaspoonfuls of the second wine to each glass in the second row (this gives you 1 : 2; 2 : 2; 3 : 2). And add three teaspoonfuls of the second wine to each glass in the third row (this gives you 1: 3; 2: 3; 3: 3). You can of course omit 2: 2 and 3 : 3 which are the same as 1: 1, but the other dilutions will give you seven blends from which to choose. Sample each blend, take a small piece of cheese between samples to clear the palate, and if you have chosen your two wines carefully in the first place, one of the blends will give you the result you are after.
When you have found it, you will know from the number of teaspoonfuls of each wine used how many bottles of each you need to make up 2 ½ or 5 ltr (½ or
1 gall). When you have done this, put the blended wine away for six months for the blends to ‘marry’. This is far more important than most people imagine. Marrying or interweaving of the various constituents, bouquets, esters and so on, takes time. When this is complete, the blended wine should be of top quality.
The following groups of wines blend well with each other: Group 1
bilberry (herts or blueberry)
black grape (fruit or concentrate)
Usually, only two wines are needed, but three and sometimes even four may be used.
white grape (fruit or concentrate)
mulberry loganberry damson
dried fruit wines (except elderberry and bilberry)
sloe (fresh or dried)
dried fruit wines (except elderberry, sloe and bilberry)
root wines (except beetroot)
Over-sweet white fruit wines blend well with a little rhubarb.
Certain wines that may be lacking in acid (but not red wines) also blend well with rhubarb.
white grape (fresh fruit or concentrate)
Flower wines rarely blend well either with themselves or with fruit wines. But a dash of rhubarb wine has been known to improve them. Some wine-makers, however, maintain that they obtain very excellent blends of flower wines. But there will always be someone to contradict me.
In any event, blending should not be resorted to for its own sake. If you have really good wines that can stand on their own feet and knock people off theirs, why try to improve them? Seriously, though, blending for the sake of it can not only irrevocably spoil really good wines but also disappoint the blender.
The same applies to blending ingredients. Once you have found a good recipe that makes the wine you like, it is wise to leave the recipe as it is. But if you really feel that the wine would have been just that much better if there had been a little more of ‘this’ or perhaps a little less of ‘that’, then there is absolutely no reason at all for not altering the blend of ingredients to suit your own taste. Or you can even add an ingredient not included in the recipe.
I have evolved hundreds of recipes by doing just this sort of thing, taking into account that one ingredient will add fruitiness, another body and some bouquet, another acid, and yet another tannin, all in suitable proportions. Judging by the popularity of my recipes, which have produced wines that have won and still do win prizes all over the country, my choice of ingredients has been reasonably good.
This is not to say that I am infallible; I have turned out some pretty disappointing wines at times. But this is how I obtained my knowledge. Any wine-maker wishing to evolve his own recipes must take account of the constituents necessary in an initial must and in a finished wine. If he does and bears in mind the types of ingredients that will put these constituents into a must, he will, with practice, evolve some excellent recipes.