You may think you know the basic process of wine making. Grapes get grown, grapes get mashed, grapes get processed and stored for a period of time under particular conditions in order to make them alcoholic. If you find the knowledge of this process comforting somehow, if the idea that one type of grape correlates to one type of wine brings you peace, stop reading now. Because I am about to rip you out of that comforting reality like Neo emerging from The Matrix: Most wines are blends of two or more types of grapes.
It wasn’t always this way. Before the 19th century, wines were largely made from a single variety of grape, but with the onset of industrialization it became important for wineries to have consistent yearly output– something that wasn’t always possible with the many variables inherent in agriculture. If a crop of merlot wine fails, then you would go a year without merlot, for example. Wine blending fixed this. By not relying on a single crop, wineries were able to make delicious wines on a consistent basis.
Wine blending is a complex process, one that winemakers have developed into an art. Different wines produce different and surprising tastes when combined, and it takes a skilled hand to know which variety of grapes will bring the precise flavor you’re looking for. It’s a long process of adding and subtracting and adding again, and you need not only a steady hand but also a refined tongue to figure out exactly what’s missing from a blend in progress. Next time you crack open a bottle, keep in mind just how much skill and effort went into making your beverage as delicious as possible.