Blending is the Key to Greatness!

During a round of golf in Bordeaux, I asked my playing partner Aymeric de Gironde, the director of Ch. Cos d’Estournel about the Merlot at the estate, and all of a sudden he got very serious. “The Merlot is so very, very important to the greatness of my wine!” He is well aware that he can make a good wine without great Merlot; but he cannot make a great Cos with the exotic complexity and texture that the world expects without great Merlot. The stunning 2016 Ch. Cos d’Estournel is blend of 76% CS-Cabernet Sauvignon 23% M-Merlot and 1% CF-Cabernet Franc but you would never see that info on the bottle.

Unlike California wines that require 75% of a wine to be a specific varietal to be named such, Cabernet, Merlot, or Chardonnay; for hundreds of years, and to this day, almost all Bordeaux wines have been blends of the 5 original grapes of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Carmenere for the reds and Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc for the whites. The theory on the plantings was simple; plant grapes with different characteristics that ripen at different times. It was the hope that at least one or more of the grapes varietals would ripen well in a given vintage and some good wine would be made and in years when mother nature smiled all the grapes would ripen and blended together would make something special.

There is very little Malbec and Carmenere left in Bordeaux today because of their non resistance to disease; Petite Verdot has been planted in their place in many instances, but most of the great wines of Bordeaux are still blends. The 2016 vintage in Bordeaux was fantastic; here are some of the final blends for some of my favorite 16’s….

Ch. Lafite Rothschild- 92% Cabernet Sauvignon 8% Merlot

Ch. Mouton Rothschild- 83% CS 15% M 2% Cabernet Franc

Ch. Pichon Longueville Baron- 85% CS 15% Merlot

Ch. Montrose- 68% CS 25% Merlot 7% Cabernet Franc

Ch. Palmer- 47% CS 47% Merlot 6% Petite Verdot

Ch. Haut Bailly- 53% CS 40% Merlot 4% PV 3% CF

Ch. Smith Haut Lafitte- 60% CS 30% M 9%CF 1% PV

Ch. Vieux Chateau Certan- 85% Merlot 14% CF 1% CS

Ch. Angelus- 60% Cabernet Franc 40% Merlot

Ch. Cheval Blanc- 59.9% Merlot 37.2% CF 3.3% CS

Here in California Harlan Estate is planted to 70% CS 20% M

8% CF and 2% PV. 2013 Dominus is 89% CS 7%PV 4%CF

2013 Opus One is 79% CS 7% CF 6% PV 2% Malbec

Of course any conversation about blends has to include the King of all blends, the red wines of Chateaneuf du Pape which legally allows 13 grape varietals to be included in there blends and while most don’t include all of them any longer; but 2015 Ch. Beaucastle has them all in the blend!

At PrimeCellar we are very proud to represent the wines made by Erik Miller at Kokomo Winery in the Dry Creek Valley of Sonoma. Erik tells me the special relationship he has with his partner at Kokomo, wine grower Randy Peters is the special ingredient in the great success of his wines. Grow it great, pick the grapes cold at 5am and start the process!

Erik’s 2013 Sonoma County Cuvee is a blend of 6 varietals, composed of 26% Petite Sirah 24% Merlot 18% Carignan 15% Malbec 7% Grenache and 100% delicious! Loaded with beautifully ripe and bold fruit, it has lovely mid-palate richness, structure and freshness. The fantastic levels of sweet fruit on display here are the hallmark characteristic of Erik’s wines and would be very difficult to match from anywhere in the wine making world!

Cheers and enjoy your blends!

Ralph Sands

PrimeCellar Consultant

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Mr. Ralph Sands

Wine Consultant

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