Greater Than The Sum Of Its Parts: Why We Blend Wine

It is no secret that there is a lot of science that goes into making great tasting wines. But blending is the part of the process where I feel most like a mad scientist, experimenting with different vineyard lots, coaxing out flavor and creating delicious wines that I’m proud to be a part of.

You might ask: why do winemakers blend? And some people hold — and I agree — that there are few single vineyards in the world able to produce a truly complete and compelling wine. Blending different vineyard sites with different characteristics from different growing regions allow winemakers to create a wine that is “greater than the sum of its parts.”

I’ve spoken before about the winemaking methods and small lot size that we maintain at Kendall-Jackson.  In blending the Bordeaux Red offerings, we narrow down our wines from up to 400 different small lots to create the Vintner’s Reserve, Grand Reserve, Jackson Hills, Highland Estates and Stature wines.

Lining up the individual lots that may play a role in the final blend and tasting across the different vineyards allows me to appreciate all the different terroirs. Each series of lots has its own distinct characteristics. It is a truly wonderful experience.

We perform multiple tastings to assess the quality of each lot.  And in the end, I work on proposing two or three options that the team will then consider and refine to create the final product.

Let me give you a more concrete example. The Kendall-Jackson Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon comes from a selection of a small percentage of our overall wine lots.  I work to create a core blend and then experiment with different wines that can add complexity and promote seamlessness.  Often the results are truly surprising.  A wine that might seem simple, but having one or two interesting features can provide an incredible enhancement to a new blend.  It is a wonderful thing to see, and I look forward to working on new blends each and every year.

So, as you might guess, one of the aspects of winemaking that I enjoy most is blending.  Harvest is full of excitement: the smells and sensations of grapes fermenting, the color and texture of new wines.  Blending, on the other hand, is the activity where I get to shape the final expression of a wine and see a grape preserved in the bottle. Part of the reason it is so gratifying is that, for me, this is the final stage of two years worth of work.