Red Wine Blends
Many red wines are “blends”, the product of a mixture of different grape varieties instead of just one. Châteauneuf du Pape, for example, is a blend of up to 13 different varieties, including Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. Port wine is blended from a number of Portugese grapes, most notably Touriga Nacional. The esteemed Super Tuscans of Italy can include Merlot, Sangiovese, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and more besides. Other famous blends include the wines of Rioja, Chianti, Priorat, the Côtes du Rhône and Amarone della Valpolicella. Where does cabernet merlot rank, then?
Cabernet Merlot, The Bordeaux Blend
The world’s favourite red blend surely comes from Bordeaux in the south west of France. Bordeaux red wines range from entry-level and everyday drinking wines right up to some of the most expensive on the planet. Red Bordeaux can be produced from a combination of five different grape varieties, though it is two in particular that get all the attention – Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The others (Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec) are generally added to the blend in much smaller quantities, if at all.
Cabernet Sauvignon gives wines structure and tannin, vital when it comes to serious wines with long aging potential. Merlot balances out the equation with generous fruit and a rounded, supple character. Together, these grape varieties combine to produce something truly outstanding – Cabernet Merlot is undoubtedly the star of the show in Bordeaux!
This blend is used for some of Bordeaux’s finest (and the world’s most expensive) wines. Top examples such as the historic “First Growths”, Château Lafite Rothschild, Château Mouton Rothschild, Château Latour, Château Haut-Brion and Château Margaux are all largely based on the Cabernet Merlot blend. Other top producers of Cabernet Merlot-based blends include Château La Mission Haut-Brion, Château Palmer, Château Cos d’Estournel and Château Léoville Las Cases. These wines routinely cost hundreds, if not thousands, of euro on restaurant wine lists.
If you would like to learn more about Cabernet Merlot from Bordeaux, visit the official Bordeaux wines website.
However, you do not need to spend a small fortune in order to enjoy the Cabernet Merlot blend. These two grapes and this blend are by no means exclusive to Bordeaux, or even to France.
The wines of Australia come in many different styles and at many different price points. There is a wide variety of grape types grown in Australia, producing wines from the entry level to the very high end. Some single varietal wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon from the Margaret River and Shiraz from the Barossa Valley are truly excellent, though many winemakers produce top notch red blends too, including Cullen Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2000, Howard Park Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 1999 and Pierro Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2000.
When compared with Bordeaux, these wines offer an alternate expression of the Cabernet Merlot blend, with all the complexity and aging potential, at a fraction of the price.
Spanish wine is diverse and has its own regional specialties such as the wines of Rioja, Cava, Sherry and Toro. In addition to these long-established favourites, the Spanish also produce some exciting and very affordable Cabernet Merlot blends. Producers such as Enate and Augustus produce great examples of the Bordeaux Blend at everyday prices, generally intended for everyday drinking shortly after release, without the need for extended aging. You can enjoy these wines young, while most of the Bordeaux wines mentioned above may need 10, 15 or 20 years of aging before they are at their peak.