I have mentioned before that when I have visited Gascony, we had a lovely workshop trying to blend wine in Aignan. Our delightful host was responsible for the blending at Plaimont.
Blending is an especially important part of winemaking. You do not necessarily recognise but expect that your preferred wine will taste the same year in and year out. It is not an easy assignment given the vagaries of the weather, late frost, too much rain, fungal diseases, more or significantly less sunshine, adverse conditions around harvest etc. These all have influence on the grapes and on the bottle of wine you are drinking. Not to mention if you have different plots of vines on different types of soils, or maybe even different grapes. You need changing the composition of your blend every year in the quest of trying to provide consistency for the consumer who grown to like a certain style of wine. One grape provides maybe more acidity, or fruit, or alcohol or body to a wine but they need to be present in a different percentage to make a well-round blend. If it is oak aged as well, then you imagine the mellowing effect of the barrel as we did.
We have tried one of their popular blends and tried to analyse it. After that we tried the three constituents of the wine, without oak ageing and examined them. They seemed very different from the original blend. One was fruity and ripe, with not much acidity, one was acidic, but lean, one was quite tannic. Then we were given little jars and test tubes and we, individually, needed to decide what portion of a certain wine should go to the blend to get a similar result to the one we tasted. Well, to be honest, it was a challenge, even if you are a good taster. We had couple of tries than, we made a decision which attempt was the closest approximation. The lady in charge than tasted every wine we made up and gave an honest opinion about it. Finally, we got some labels, we put our names on it and the suggested proportions of our final blend. Later she blended a single bottle for every individual with the given specifications and labelled it. It arrived back to Blighty a month or so later, nicely foil capped. It was not a bad wine, even if I blended it myself!
Photographs by The Tannin Addict.