Frankenwines - The Best of Blends
At this spooky time of year, we wanted to show you that blends are nothing to be scared of. Like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein being a blend of body parts, our Frankenwines are a blend of grapes that bring a bottle to life! Some of our favourite blends are so good it’s scary.
Why Blend Grapes?
More wines than you think are blends, rather than being made from a single variety, so why do winemakers choose to do this? The simple answer is, to make a wine that is greater than the sum of its parts. Blending is the art of wine, it’s composition at its best, adding balance to the symphony and bringing forte just at the right moment. In wine speak, blending can help balance the wine, add layers of flavours, and better integrate the tannins and acids. To the last drop, a blend brings out the best in every grape.
On a dark and stormy night (and on less macabre nights) these blends are real thrillers…
This is a great example of a blend, as not only is it a blend of grapes (69% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet Franc, 14% Merlot, 2% Other), it’s also a blend of vintages (2015, 2016 and 2018). Blending vintages is more common in Champagnes and other sparkling wines, rather than in still wines, but the end goal is the same as blending grapes – a more consistently great wine.
Flavour-wise, there are bags of cherry notes which is classic of the Sangiovese grape, and then there’s spice from the Cabernet Sauvignon, and hints of toasty oak from the elements of the blend that were aged in oak barrels. The Rosso is a seductress, one sip and you’re done for.
It’s tricky to talk about blends in wine without talking about wines from Bordeaux, as this region has perfected the art over a very long period of time. If you’ve ever heard the term Left-Bank and Right-Bank with Bordeaux wines, this simply refers to which side of the Gironde Estuary the area is located. The soil on either bank lends itself to produce better Merlot (the Right-Bank) or Cabernet Sauvignon (the Left-Bank).
The XX de Corbin is no exception to this ‘rule’, being a blend of 83% Merlot and 17% Cabernet Franc, which is also a grape commonly used in St-Émilion. Here, the Merlot provides plummy, dark fruit flavours, and silky soft tannins, and the Cabernet Franc gives the wine structure and backbone, ensuring that this wine wears its 6 years very lightly indeed. The XX de Corbin is a bottle for occasion, pair it with lamb, a date night and a soul mate and you have a delicious combination.
Although English Sparkling wine is now most definitely a wine style within its own right, it should also be noted that these wines all owe their French cousins over in Champagne a huge debt. This is because the grapes that are mainly used in English fizz are also those used across the Channel in Champagne – Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay. In both French and English wines, Pinot Noir adds body, structure, aroma, and a complexity of flavours, Pinot Meunier contributes fruitiness and floral aromas, and Chardonnay gives freshness, delicacy, elegance, and finesse (if you’re looking to impress someone, a bottle of Nyetimber should be enough, but knowing the above will make it a certainty).
Nyetimber is made of grapes from several different vintages, another nod to their Champagne ways, creating a mix of harvests from hot and cool years and wet and dry years, to achieve balance and consistency over time. Laurent-Perrier’s cellar master sums this up beautifully, saying “Blending can bring you to another level, creating a year [vintage] that nature can’t really give you”.
Nyetimber shows that blending grapes and vintages can make fantastic wine, but also that blending traditional techniques with a modern approach can create a truly unique drinking experience that makes any occasion special.