Finding the Good Stuff: The Big Business of Red Blends

grape-harvestRed Blends are one of the fastest growing categories in the wine world, but David Jeffrey’s Cab-Merlot blend from Sonoma’s cool Chalk Hill AVA shows how much diversity exists in this category and how misunderstood it is.

Nielsen called red blends one of the fastest growing segments in the wine business, reporting $900 million in sales. But the kinds of red blends that account for this dramatic growth are a far cry from a handmade, structured red blend from a traditional array of grape varieties.

Avoiding the Dumping Ground 
Because this style has become so popular, ‘red blends’ have become a dumping ground for jammy, cynically made, kitchen-sink blends of whatever wineries can get a good deal on, pump full of Super Purple, and dump into a bottle with a cute label.

At a big-box store looking to grab something for a potluck or gift exchange? (we forgive you) Do yourself a favor and stay away from anything that calls itself something like “Handsome Stranger” and features a list of grapes as long as your arm that you’ve never heard of going together before.

A History of Growing Together 

So how do you know that you’re getting an elegant, traditionally made wine and not a gimmicky critter bottle? Look for grape varieties that have a history of growing together. Calluna winemaker David Jeffrey trained with superstar winemaker and consultant Alain Raynaud at Ch Quinault l’Enclos in Bordeaux.

When he planted his Chalk Hill estate in 2005, he decided to plant all five traditional Bordeaux varieties because his experiences in Bordeaux showed him how well these grapes work together.

Wines that come from a specific place are another hallmark of real wine. Jeffrey maintains that his red blends are simply wines that reflect their site, rather than being specifically Left or Right Bank Bordeaux style. Chalk Hill’s white volcanic ash soil and cooler temperatures in his hands give wines of quiet, elegant power that promise years of pleasure ahead.

 

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