Traditionally, in vineyards in France, Italy, Spain and Portugal all wines were blends. Today’s grape growers are more likely to deliberately choose specific varieties for their different qualities.
For a while, as modern winemaking developed, single variety wines reigned supreme outside of Europe – Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, etc.
What we were not always told, however, was that in most cases these varietal wines were usually only 85 per cent of the named variety. Savvy winemakers enhanced the finished wine by blending in up to 15 per cent of other varieties for richness and complexity.
Today, here in B.C. and elsewhere, we are seeing a rebirth of blended wines. Often, the different grapes are fermented into wine separately before blending, allowing the winemaker to tweak the proportions to adjust the final flavour profile before bottling.
Located south of Oliver in the Okanagan Valley, Stoneboat Vineyards released their first vintage in 2005. Previously known known as ‘Chorus’, Stone’d White (875740) $13.99 combines roughly equal parts Pinot Blanc, Müller Thurgau, Schöenberger and Kerner, with a splash of Pinot Gris and a dash of Viognier. Just north of Penticton, on the east side of Okanagan Lake, Perseus Winery is owned and operated by Terrabella Wineries.
Priced at $18.99 at the winery, Perseus Riesling Gewurztraminer (27993) can’t be beat at $14.99. The newest addition to the Perseus portfolio, it is a fresh and lively off-dry white. Leading with 51 per cent Riesling, this wine boasts lively citrus aromas and rich, tropical fruit character with a dab of honeyed peach in the finish.
Another Naramata winery, Bench 1775, is located on the southeastern shore of Lake Okanagan. General Manager and winemaker, Val Tait maintains that Bench 1775 strives to over-deliver on quality while keeping their prices affordable.
Made of mostly Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Viognier, with a splash of Gewurztraminer and a dash of Riesling, Bench 1775 Chill (441741) $16.99 captures the elegance of fully ripe summer stone fruit. Green apple and peach flavours tumble into bright notes of pear, guava, pineapple and kiwi fruit.
In classic French Rhone blends, Marsanne adds the fat, richness and ‘oily’ texture as well as residual sweetness to the wines and Rousanne brings some acidity, elegance and a bouquet of aromatic complexities.
A new release from Romanian-born Adrian Capeneata’s winery on the ‘Golden Mile’, south of Oliver, Cassini Quattro (6847) $18.99 is a luscious white blend of Roussane and Marsanne – the basis of so many French whites from the Rhone Valley – with Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris adding underlying gooseberry and honeydew melon fruit.
Canadian by birth, trained in Australia, Richard Kanazawa started making wine in the Okanagan Valley at Red Rooster Winery in Naramata and moved on to Blasted Church Vineyards. The first vintage of his own Kanazawa Wines was produced in 2010.
A blend of 57 per cent Viognier, 38 per cent Semillon and five per cent Orange Muscat, Kanazawa Nomu 2013 (574673) $20.50 was made without commercial yeasts or enzymes. Orange blossom, citrus rind, peach, apricot and grassy aromas slide into flavours of lemons and mandarin oranges, peaches, and honeyed pears.
With an eye on the French wines of Alsace, Joie Farm’s winemaker Heidi Noble makes wines that are focused on the brightest flavours of the chosen grapes.
Joie Farm’s ‘A Noble Blend’ (882027) $23.49 marries 38 per cent Gewurztraminer, 37 per cent Riesling, 11 per cent Pinot Auxerrois, eight per cent Pinot Blanc and five per cent Muscat. Unusually and refreshingly dry for an Okanagan blend of Gewurztraminer and Riesling, this intensely aromatic wine intrigues the nose with mandarin orange, lychee, mango and guava aromas, then drenches every taste bud in a flood of the same flavours.