Wednesday, April 9, 2008

A Blending Experiment

Had some free time on Sunday afternoon, so I decided to get drunk. Oops, I mean I decided to take a stab at blending some of my 2006 red wines!

I've been thinking about this for some time because I'm just not all that happy with the zinfandel that I made from grapes shipped from the Central Valley in California. I bought them from a winemaking store in southeast Michigan that was sourcing grapes for the first time. I don't think they had a very good grape source because the grapes just didn't taste all that good when I picked them up. Hard to explain, but they just weren't very flavorful and had a rather chalky aftertaste. That lack of flavor and chalky taste persisted through the fermentation and aging. I also didn't get a lot of color and tannin extraction, so I ended up with a pretty light colored and bland, chalky wine. I may be overstated things, but the wine is not something I look forward to drinking or giving away, which is not good because I've got 4 cases of the stuff!

I've also been tasting some of the red wines that I made from grapes purchased in the Finger Lakes of New York and have been much more impressed with the flavors, colors, and tannin profiles. After some mulling, I decided to see what I could achieve by blending the CA zinfandel with some NY cabernet franc and noiret wines. Of course, blending requires multiple bench tests of different blend ratios to determine the optimal ratios, so I was in for an afternoon of drinking! I will admit that I had to take a break for a couple of hours to sober up and continue. I have not mastered the art of sipping and spitting!

I started with blending the zinfandel with noiret because the noiret came out with strong cherry and pepper flavors/aromas, heavy tannins, and just black as night, and I thought it would add a lot that the zin was missing. I was very pleased to see that I was correct. Adding the noiret really perked up the zin! I started with a 90/10 zinfanel/noiret ratio and worked my way up to a 50/50 blend. After tasting through the panel several times, both my wife and I agreed that we liked the 50/50 and 60/40 zin/noiret blends the best.

I was pleased with the zin/noiret blend, but wanted to try a tertiary blend by adding some NY cabernet franc as it has a lot of the same cherry & pepper flavors as the noiret, but also some interesting creamy vanilla notes that I thought might help round the aroma and taste. I didn't do a complete investigation because I was getting a little loopy by now and simply couldn't last through a 3-dimensional blending test. I decided to take the 60/40 zin/noiret blend and see what would happen if I added a little cab franc in increments for 60/40/10 to 60/40/50. Interestingly, the vanilla came through even at the 60/40/10 ratio, but was soon overpowered by some emerging tartness. In the end, I felt that a 60/40/25 zin/noiret/cab franc blend was the absolute best of the evening. And guess what--my wife agreed!

My plan for the coming weekend is to pop open some bottles and make 3 gal of this 60/40/25 zinfandel/noiret/cabernet franc blend. Going to have to brush up on my fraction math so I get the right amount of the different varietals into the carboy! It will be interesting to see how the wine chemistry works after blending. I'm anticipating that I might see some additional sedimentation after everything is mixed and the wine pH stabilizes. I may even decided to do some additional oaking on the blend--we'll see.

It took quite a bit of additional wine to make this zinfandel more palatable, since I'm diluting it at almost a 1:1 ratio with the other wines. However, I'm pretty pleased with the result. I'm going to give it about a month or two to meld together before rebottling and reporting on the results. Stay tuned!

a Wine Student

p.s. Someone once told me that all blends were crap wine. In some respects, I am trying to pass a substandard wine off as something drinkable. On the other hand, I'm doing what I need to do to produce a wine that I'll drink!

p.s. #2 Just to be clear, I strongly disagree with the notion that only single varietal wines are "good". Look at the Bourdeaux blends! Winemakers have been blending wines for years to make an improved product.

1 comment:

Randy said...

Whats wrong with blending wine? Like you I find some fantastic blends out there. Hell I have been known to mix two different ones in a glass that im drinking (on purpose, not cause I was drunk!). But then again you may have been around for those days too :)
When the grape stomping? Count me in if I am in town. Randy