Creating a blend in the Bordeaux style

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Creating a blend in the Bordeaux style

Bordeaux is probably the most well-known wine region in the world.  The wines have had centuries to evolve into their current style.  They are blends of two or more of the five varietals Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Carménère is also a Bordeaux grape but very little of it is still grown in Bordeaux. When making a blend the winemaker is like a chef, mixing the ingredients to create a balanced wine where all the flavors come together. Each winemaker, each winery is aiming for their particular style, but using the same ingredients. Just like chefs at different restaurants can create totally different meals from the same ingredients. This is really one of the more exciting aspects of winemaking.

Only a wine from Bordeaux can be labeled Bordeaux, but many wine regions where the same five grapes thrive can create similar wines, they will just be called something else. In other wine regions they are sometimes called Cuvée or Meritage. We are lucky that Dry Creek Valley has many micro climates and great growing conditions for these grapes.

My version of a Bordeaux wine is called West Crest Cuvée and I use slightly different ratios of the five Bordeaux grapes every year. The varietals are aged separately for two years in French oak barrels and blended together before bottling. In the next step I let them mature for three years in the bottle at 55F (13C) which allows the wine components to integrate and develop more interesting aromas.

There are a number of factors to play with: how you grow the grapes, how you ferment and age the different grape varietals, how you blend them, and of course the weather, which plays with us more than the other way around.

My West Crest Cuvée consists of  around 60% Cabernet Sauvignon. That is a style which is common on the “left bank” in Bordeaux. The rivers Garonne and Dordogne run through the region and meet as they flow into the Atlantic. Each side of the big river mouth has different wine styles. The left bank of the river is home to wineries that base their wines on Cabernet Sauvignon, blending in the other varietals, whereas Merlot is the dominating grape in wines from the right bank.

A substantial amount of Cabernet Sauvignon creates a wine which is not readily drinkable right after bottling, but on the other hand allows for many years, often decades, of cellaring while new and more subtle flavors evolve in the bottle. This is what really fascinates me when dealing with this wine style. It is so fun to experience how the wine evolves; trying bottles year after year as they change and become more subtle and velvety but retain their vigor thanks to tannins that soften but still bring body and strength to the wine. The tannic young wine with dark ruby red color and cassis, cherry, coffee, spice and licorice on the palate over the years give way to more mature flavors of dark fruit, leather, truffle, caramel, a more silky texture and the color a warmer brick red..

I think I am going to open a bottle of the 2008 West Crest Cuvée and see how it is doing, right now. Cheers!

Written by Katarina