Do you like a single flavor of ice cream? Or do you sometimes crave for scoops of your favorite flavors together in one bowl? Well, in a way, that’s the difference between varietal and blended wines.
Typically, when a wine is made from a single grape variety it is called a ‘varietal wine’. ‘Blend’, as the name suggests, is a wine made using different grape varieties.
A winemaker can use wine grapes from different vineyards, different regions, even vintages, to make a varietal wine as long as they are the same type of grape.
Sometimes, he/she can even add other grapes to a varietal in order to enhance the elements and still be called a varietal wine. However, in such cases, the winemaker should adhere to the rules laid out by the country where the wine is being produced and marketed. For example, in Australia, for a wine to be labeled as a varietal wine, 75% of the grapes should be from a single variety while in Argentina it is 80% and in France, the requirement is 85%.
Either way, varietal wines are usually labeled by the name of the primary grape variety. So if a wine is made from only Shiraz grape variety or where Shiraz is the primary grape, in both cases, the wine will be labeled as Shiraz.
Blending is a traditional method in winemaking where the best attributes of one grape variety is matched or complemented with another variety to enhance the expression of the final wine. In that sense blending is both scientific and creative. But it is also complex and requires a lot of experience and expertise.
Some of the classic wine regions like Bordeaux in France produce some of the finest blended wines, where one can find blends of up to six grape varieties.
The question now is, does it really matter? Blended wines are not better or worse. It is just different from a varietal wine. So, go with the flow, be unafraid to discover new wine styles and most importantly enjoy.