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What's Really in a Red Blend?

glasses of red blend wine

When it comes to red blends, the very label itself is as evasive as the mix in the bottle. In fact, when a wine label reads "Red Blend," what's in your glass could be any combination of a number of red grape varieties. In some cases wineries divulge the details, but often the specific breakdown is a mystery.

But don't let that deter you from trying and enjoying red blends. They prove the old adage that the bottled version is greater than the sum of its parts. Here's why.

The Flavor Complexity

Even with all the unknowns surrounding these wines, one thing is clear: Blends are on the rise. A 2015 Nielsen study reported that red blends are one of the fastest-growing categories in wine.

That's probably because a red blend is like a recipe. Just as one culinary component complements another, various grape varieties bring out the best in each other, balancing certain aspects while highlighting others.

Take the traditional Bordeaux blend components: franc, merlot, malbec, petit verdot, and king cabernet sauvignon. The franc contributes acidity; the merlot, fruit sweetness and velveteen texture; the malbec, spice and earth notes; petit verdot, color and tannin; and king cabernet sauvignon, ripe fruit, power, and intensity. Meanwhile, in France's Rhône Valley, Grenache often adds rich, old-world flavor that's filled out with syrah's full-figured fruit and decorated with mourvèdre's red fruit and high alcohol potential.

A snapshot of traditional Bordeaux blend components

illustration of Bordeaux blend components

The Non-Traditional Mixtures

Unusual red blends also are on the rise. Winemakers around the world are mixing syrah with pinot noir, zinfandel with merlot, or mixing a daring combination of dozens of varieties.

A Sip of an Expert's Craft

The beautiful part of blends is that they give winemakers the opportunity to hand-select ingredients. They’ll begin with a base wine, then craft the best representation of both the vintage and his or her style. The goal is an ultra-drinkable wine that's balanced and works with any number of food dishes.

5 Red Blends to Try

Red Blend #1

Apothic Dark: A blend of zinfandel, merlot, syrah, and cabernet sauvignon.

Apothic Dark wine bottle

Red Blend #2

19 Crimes Red: A blend of syrah, Grenache, and mourvèdre.

19 Crimes Red wine bottle

Red Blend #3

Troublemaker Red: A blend of syrah, Grenache, zinfandel, petite sirah, and mourvèdre.

Troublemaker Red wine bottle

Red Blend #4

Cupcake Black Forest Red: A blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, zinfandel, petite verdot, and petite sirah.

Cupcake Black Forest Red wine bottle

Red Blend #5

Conundrum Red: A blend of dark red varietals including zinfandel and petite syrah.

Conundrum Red wine bottle