BY DR MICHAEL RYAN
I picked a grape, I picked another. I picked its cousin, instead of its brother.
Picked more, a brother from another mother. Picked the ring-ins, All different no bother.
Great in singles celebrated, but the sum of parts anticipated.
No single vineyard intended, wine from the hand of man,
In the spirt of trying to keep my writing fresh I thought I would blend some words together to introduce the topic of wine blending. It can be a vigorously debated topic between puritans who impress the importance of single vineyard, single variety and vintage with the winemaker being a steward rather than a master. On the other hand blended wine is often called the “wine makers wine”.
Blending has occurred since the beginning of wine making. The great Bordeaux’s are various combinations of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, malbec, petit Verdot, cabernet franc. Champagne is a blend often of Pinot noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Minuer.
In a way like great perfume houses, the skill of blending to have a commercially stable product out ways the art of expression. Penfolds would have to be the greatest blenders in the world.
Australians have become self-educated and excelled in the skill of blending. This has often come about by the lack of grape to make commercial quantities. Max Schubert wanted to make a great Bordeaux blend but there wasn’t enough quality Cabernet Sauvignon. Lucky we swim in a lake of Shiraz. So Penfolds Grange has become a blend of Shiraz and Cabernet with only a handful of pure Shiraz vintages.
Australians love affair with its unique Shiraz Cabernet blend has been perpetuated by great wines like Yalumba Signature and Penfolds 389. Australians blending of white grapes Semillon and sauvignon blanc, originating in Western Australia , has produced some truly mouth-watering and cellar worthy wines. The old Houghton’s White Burgundy
Shouldn’t the mantra be- Make it to taste good? Extrapolating from the Rhone blends of Grenache and shiraz, Australian wine making icon Charles Melton pioneered the GSM blends of Grenache, Shiraz and Mouvedre. Who would have thought adding white to red would work? Viognier can be added to shiraz to lift its aromatics. Then of course dichotomies exist such as adding Shiraz and pinot noir, as done by the late Maurice O’Shea.
The public gets what the public needs. The wine maker is allowed 15 per cent of a different variety, year and geography but still call it a straight wine. Mathematically it is possible to end up with only about 60 per cent of what is labelled.
My mate Dave Lehman of David Franz wines loves his self-entitled wine – The Larrikin. He has orphaned parcels of grapes that remain in the same proportion each year and in a sense, it is a hybrid – use what the vineyard gave you but tweak it with a desirable ratio.
Some of the more exotic blends in Australia have included Tempranillo and Touriga Nacional, Nebbiolo and Barbera and Sangiovese, Cabernet, Nebbiolo and Shiraz.
Wines to try
S.C.Panell Tempranillo Touriga McLaren Vale 2015- if you can find this aromatic spicy red that balances the fruit of Tempranillo and the slight grittiness of the Touriga. Plush fruit and good structure- have with “fully charged” Spanish meatballs.
Quealy Pobblebonk Mornington Peninsula 2015- is made from Moscato Giallo and Riesling blended with Friulano, Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay. Intense aromatic wine with notes of florals over melons and grapefruit. Lively white on the palate with mild acidity. Have with some oily fish such as sardines.
Mt Mary Quintets Yarra Valley 2013 -Dr John Middleton’s baby started in1971. Bordeaux varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec are used. Complex deep purple colour. Complex berry fruits, hints of cabernet dust and layers of brambly notes. Full flavour, restrained in its attack but supported by obvious tannins.