Monday, August 16, 2010

Blending trials

I have three red wines that need bottled within the next week. Before bottling them as stand-alone wines, I thought it would be a good idea to explore the idea of doing a small portion of them as our first blend, to be dubbed "Howling Good Red."

The batches of wine to be bottled and to evaluate for blending are:

A) 6 gallons of 2008 NC Cabernet Franc
B) 8 gallons of 2008 NC Syrah
C) 5 gallons of 50% 2008 NC Cabernet Franc & 50% 2007 CA Cabernet Sauvignon

Wine C is already a blend that came about from a storage crisis. I only had a 5 gallon carboy available, and 2.5 gallons of Cabernet Franc and 2.5 gallons of Cabernet Sauvignon leftover after racking the wine.

The procedure for developing a blend is most often referred to as a blending trial. The first step is to take small portions of each individual wine evaluate it based on appearance, color, aroma, acidity, tannins, and the overall flavor. Based on the information gathered, you decide what to blend based on the characteristics of the individual wines and the end-product you are trying to achieve.

The next step is to measure out portions using a cylinder of the various wines to mix. It's important to measure because you want to be able to adjust and re-create. After measuring and mixing the wines into what you believe to be a suitable blend, you taste and evaluate. Basically the process is adjusted and repeated until you feel you have achieved your desired blend.

When we evaluated each wine, my wife and I both agreed that the best was Wine A (the 2008 NC Cabernet Franc), it was well balanced and tasted fantastic. Wine B (2008 NC Syrah) was a little acidic, but had good tannins and aromas. Wine C (the unintentional blend) was not acidic enough, and very fruity in flavor. We'll probably add some acid to Wine C for the portion of the wine that will be bottled on its own.

The first blend "guess" was a 50/50 blend of Wines B & C We figured the acid from Wine B would help balance out Wine C. Considering that Wine C is a 50/50 blend of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, the breakdown by varietal for this blend would be 50% Syrah, 25% Cabernet Franc and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon. That blend was pretty good, but lacked that well-rounded full-bodied wine we were trying to acheive.

The second blend was 41% of Wine B, 41% of Wine C, and 18% of Wine A. The varietal breakdown would be 41% Syrah, 39% Cabernet Franc, and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. That was better than the first blend, but still needed a little more acidity.

We tweaked that blend a little bit by using more of Wine B in the blend. That blend was 54% of Wine B, 36% of Wine C, and 10% of Wine A. We both agreed this was the best iteration, and decided to use those proportions for our final blend. The varietal breakdown of this blend by varietal will be 54% Syrah, 29% Cabernet Franc, and 17% Cabernet Sauvignon.

I plan on making about 3 gallons of this blend, which will equate to about 14 bottles. The remainder of each of the wines will be tweaked and bottled as a single varietal wine.