The first thing I do when I‘m in a restaurant is check the wine list. I usually go straight to the Shiraz section as it’s my favourite grape… but is it the best? There’s a bit of snobbery to single grape wines, but do blends have more to offer?
I’m usually a little suspicious of a bottle of wine that isn’t labelled with the specific grape variety used. I don’t know why but I like to know what’s going on my wine.
The tasting notes on the back of the bottle usually tell you what the wine’s going to taste like, so it’s not that. I’m not a ‘grape bigot’ so it’s not a prejudice thing either – though those verdelho grapes can all go to hell!
I think it’s just a transparency thing.
I want to know if there are fifteen different varieties in my glass. Don’t try and brush me off with a quirky name like ‘Frog’s Piss – French Red Wine’ or ‘Erik’s the Red’.
It’s a shame because behind that jokey label could be my all-time favourite wine ever. You never know. I go for Shiraz most of the time because – by and large – I know I’ll like it. But there are blends that I love too.
My personal favourite is a Shiraz-Grenache blend. I like the smooth thickness you get from the mouth-feel. I like the sweet, big-bodied full-flavoured don’t-mess-with-me-and-we-can-play-nicely spiciness.
And one of bottles we always pick up is The Jump Stump from d’Arenberg Estate. It’s a massive blend of Shiraz, Grenache and Mourvedre – the classic Aussie GMS blend. We had this while we were on our honeymoon and – although it’s not an expensive or even particularly good bottle, the sentimentality makes this one of our favourite blended wines.
Of course, mine is just a lowly mortal’s opinion. It’s worth nothing in the bigger scheme of things. Our Wine Saints, however, command such sway that it’s said the fact that when they merely looked at the label of a bottle once made Bacchus himself take it on as his go-to tipple.
Here’s what St Andrew and St Peter have to say on blended reds:
“Sorry Margaret River, but for me the ultimate Cabernet Merlot outside of France is Hawke’s Bay’s Te Mata Estate Coleraine. Better than most Bordeaux at triple the price. Buy new and cellar for 10 years. Sublime.
I like a good old Rioja, which is typically Tempranillo blended with a little Garnacha, Marzuelo and Graciano to add colour, depth and aroma (though probably not in that order).
Marques de Murrieta is my favourite traditional Rioja Alta bodega and all of their wines are good. Their top-tier Castillo Ygay Gran Reservas are worthy of special reverence.
And for an Australian tipple of distinction, an aged Penfolds Bin 389 Cabinet Shiraz is just about unstoppable.”
“My favourite cold climate wine is from Bloodwood Wines in Orange, NSW – their Cabernet Franc / Malbec. It is an all rounder. Not too big like the 389, but big enough to go well with Steak / Lamb Shanks and a very smooth drink with eloquent tannins.
One of my favourite regions is Ribera del Duero. I like it because in Spain it’s very reasonably priced and produces some excellent wine.
Most of the wines from Ribera del Duero are blends, most of which is Tempranillo but can include Cab Merlot and Shiraz among others.”
So if it’s a huge, heft of a red you’re after or perhaps a red that would still go with seafood, instead of reaching for the Cab Sauv or the Beaujolais, perhaps it’s a blend you should be looking for instead.
Do you have a favourite blended red? Are there any blends that you don’t like? Do you prefer single variety wine over mixed? Tell us in the comments!
Here’s what our Wine Saints had to say about what to do on a wine tasting trip. Such clever chaps: 15 Tips for Tasting at the Cellar Door.