If you ask a North American what kind of red wine they prefer, they’re almost always going to name a grape variety, like Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah, whereas the same question posed to a European will elicit a geographical answer: they’re going to name a place (Chianti, Bordeaux, etc.). Our emphasis on single varietal wines is recent, which makes even tracking the history of certain grapes in historical records frustratingly difficult: a medieval text will say “Hans hath planted grapes for wine, thus we hath partied at Hans’ house” rather than “Hans hath planted Riesling…”
That’s because, historically, the where has been much more important than the what. The prestige of a particular Terroir has traditionally carried more weight than the wine’s ingredients, and although there are many Old World regions famous for single varietals (Barolo = Nebbiolo, Burgundy = Pinot Noir), we find many more places in Europe that have built their reputations (and their appellations) on iconic blends.
Increasingly, though, New World wineries are finding success with blends, rather than single grape wines: the #1 selling wine in this province is California’s Apothic, for example, and most people who drink it probably don’t know what’s in it (my guess: Zinfandel and Vicks Cherry), but most B.C. wineries produce Bordeaux-style blends (Merlot with Cabernet Sauvignon) as their flagship wines.
Here are a couple New World blends that show off where they come from far more than what they’re made of.
Joie Farms A Noble Blend 2016, Naramata, B.C. One of BC’s best white wines, showcasing our province’s knack at bright, vibrant fruit over a clean, crisp body. Named after the literal translation of Edelzwicker, a Germanic blend of aromatic white grapes (Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Muscat, etc.), Noble Blend is just this side of dry, with drop-dead gorgeous citrus and floral notes with a touch of tropical fruit making things extra awesome. This wine likes sushi more than you do. $23.99
Orin Swift Machete 2015, Napa Valley, California. Zero doubt as to who made this and where it’s from, you can recognize it from across the house, through several walls. This latest bunker-buster from Orin Swift’s Dave Phinney is a synergy of Californian also-rans (Petit Sirah, Syrah, Grenache) that unite like Wonder-Twins to form a superior, unstoppable weapon. Blueberry, vanilla, and friendly cassis trick you into letting your guard down, you fool. The opaque purple-splosion that follows is massive, and the heated finish is held together more by personality than tannins. –WARNING—there are 12 different labels for Machete, each of which shows semi-naked people, so it’s not a good idea to serve this particular wine to young children. $72.99
Written by Jordan Carrier, Vintage Room Consultant at Everything Wine – River District.