Peas and carrots. Broccoli and cauliflower. Tri-colored bell peppers. Sure, I like a good veg medley from time to time, but what I really crave most days is a great wine "medley."
No, that doesn't mean that I'm looking for more than one glass of wine (though that sometimes is the case). It means that I love a wine made from a blend of more than one varietal. While I find Cabernet Sauvignon to be very special on its own, when it is blended with a bit of Merlot it becomes much more approachable and softer, kind of like me after a couple of glasses …
There are a few different names for blended wines, such as Meritage and Cuvee. The term "meritage" is a combination of the words "merit" and "heritage" (and it's pronounced like "heritage"), as an homage to the great wines of Bordeaux.
To be a meritage, a wine must be any combination of the five red grapes of Bordeaux: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec; or a blend of the two white grapes of Bordeaux: Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. Another stipulation is that the winery has to be a member of the Meritage Growers Association.
If a winery is not a member of this mysterious society, they usually call their blends Cuvee or Claret, or they just give their wine a catchy name.
For instance, Cain calls their high-end blend the Cain Five, which contains all five of the aforementioned grapes. Of course, blended wines can be made from any type of grape varietal in the world. The sky's the limit.
The Ferrari Carano Sienna (about $25) is a blend of mostly Sangiovese, with small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Petite Verdot. Because this is a California winery making a wine primarily made from Sangiovese, an Italian varietal, this wine could be called a Cal-Ital blend. It's good stuff.
The Guenoc Victorian Claret (about $12) is a tribute to Lilly Langtry, a famous Victorian actress who once owned that property. This is a big wine at a not-so-big price; a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petite Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Carmenere. Don't forget the steak.
A great white blend to try is the Hill of Content Benjamin's Blend (about $14) from Australia. A blend of Chardonnay, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc, this wine is crisp and fresh, yet a little rich. As an all-purpose white, it will pair really well with a plethora of dishes. It is a great social sipper too.
If you're out to spend some bucks, go for the Flora Springs Trilogy (about $57). The blends change from vintage to vintage, but it's always some combination of the five Bordeaux grapes. This wine is truly special. Gobs of ultra-ripe fruit, luscious vanilla and silky tannins literally dance on the palate. It'll get you that second date.
To me, some of the greatest blended wines on earth are Cotes-du-Rhone, from the Rhone region of France. One of my all-time faves is the Guigal Cotes-du-Rhone, which is a total bargain at around $12 a bottle. The primary grapes in this are Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre, which make lamb the ultimate companion to this wine.
So laugh boldly in the face of choosing just one type of wine. When in doubt, get the "medley."