The war of wines: Single variety wines are often thought to be
better than wines from a blend of different grapes.
Now, for the real truth about single varietal wines.
Single varietal wines are largely popular in New World wine countries (America, Australia, etc), whereas wines made from a blend of different grapes are common in Old World wine countries (France, Italy, etc).
It’s loyal supporters may argue that wines made from a single grape variety are ALWAYS better than those made from a few.
But this is largely a myth. Here’s why:
1- Single varietal wines may not always be made from a single grape variety
Most laws allow a wine to be labeled as a single varietal wine as long as a certain percentage of the wine is made from a certain grape variety. These allows room for another grape variety to be introduced into the wine. For example, in the US, a wine made from at least 85% Merlot can be labeled as a ‘Merlot’ varietal wine. The other 15% of the wine could be from the Cabernet Sauvignon grape, and that wine would still be labeled as a Merlot wine. Hence, the ‘Merlot’ wine that one drinks and evaluates may not actually be a 100% Merlot wine.
2- Even if it is 100% from one grape variety, it does not necessarily make it better
When other grapes that are introduced into the wine, it can give the wine some interesting characteristics. Think of the different grape varieties in wine as the Soprano, Alto, Tenor, and Bass in a choir. They all operate in harmony and can create a symphony of flavors in the wine. For example, Bordeaux winemakers can add Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot to a wine to give it a fruitier, rounder taste compared to if it was made of Cabernet Sauvignon alone. Wines made from pure Cabernet Sauvignon may end up too tannic to drink.
Also, sometimes a certain grape variety planted in a certain vintage may not do so well. For instance, the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes in the vineyard may not ripen sufficiently and it may be ideal to add another grape to balance out the harshness.
3- There are many other factors that affect the quality of a wine
The vintage’s climate and winemaker’s standards also play a crucial role in determining the wine’s quality. Regardless which variety of grapes used, if the grapes were not grown under a good climate or it is not produced under strict conditions, the wine may not taste good.
A final point: choosing a single varietal wine over a wine made from a blend of different grapes may also just be a matter of preference. So try both and find the type that you prefer.
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