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Blends are the new black

Written by  Harry Haddon | August 4, 2014

History has a habit of running around in circles. Fashions repeat themselves, much like episodes of ‘Friends’ on E-TV, and - with the right marketing - what was second-hand, can quickly become ‘vintage’.

Wine is not exempt. Varieties fall in and out of fashion, with one generation going gaga for oaky Chardonnay, while the next wants anything but. The biggest buyers set the trends, and so for many years the United Kingdom – and England specifically – has been the arbiter of taste in the wine world. It was the English who made Bordeaux wines fashionable, and as a result super expensive. The Americans have had their time with Robert Parker, who has the power to make any wine popular. And China, with its enormous buying power, is starting to set trends. There are of course niche-fashions, off-shoots from the establishment.
      The point is that wine does not escape the whims of fashion. After the movie Sideways, sales of Merlot dropped, while those of Pinot Noir skyrocketed. It mattered little that a lot of that Pinot was horrible-watery stuff made from whatever grapes winemakers could find to satisfy the need: Pinot Noir was in, Merlot was out.

      In the United States Moscato has for a while been the wine of choice for rich rappers who had quaffed all the Kristal they could manage.
      South Africa itself is slowly becoming a fashionable place to buy wine from. Some of the world’s foremost critics are getting more and more vocal about the quality of our finest wines, and the relatively good value they offer. Especially to those with dollars, pounds, euros and yen. But locally our wine fashions are our own.
      As we are located at some remove from the mainstream, our wine fashions are particular. Chocolate Pinotage, and Chardonnay-Pinot Noir white blends are perhaps South African wine at its quirkiest, if not quite its best.
      One area in which I think we are seeing a bit of a shift, is the renewed interest in blends, as opposed to varietal wines. Single varieties have always been a favourite of the general wine consumer who has a fair idea of what he is getting with just a glimpse at the label. With an esoterically-labeled blend, you have less of a chance. But, to invoke the biggest cliché on the subject, the benefit of the blend is that sometimes the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. And thankfully we are seeing many new blends which have been made with intent and skill coming onto the market.
      Blending is an art. The cellar master’s palette is made up of many different barrels or tanks of finished wine, and he or she must combine them to paint a final bottle that has more depth, complexity, and balance than any of those individual wines. It’s not as easy as it sounds. Think about painting. What happens when you combine too many colours? You don’t get harmony; you just get a dirty sort of brown smudge.
      One blend which has been around for a while but has just been rereleased is the exciting, and affordable Initial Blend from Jean Daneel. Jean Daneel is best known for Cab-Shiraz blends, and outstanding Chenin Blancs, but this little number is something a bit more experimental. The blend goes a little left-field in combining some of the traditional grapes of Burgundy, Bordeaux and the Rhône all into one. It is a blend of 74% Shiraz, 20% Merlot, and 6% Pinot Noir, all from in and around the ward of Napier.
Untitled-26      The Shiraz, as the percentages indicates, dominates this blend, and contributes some spicy black pepper and dried herb notes. There are plummy, fruity notes from the Merlot, while the Pinot lurks somewhere in the background, contributing a hint of its characteristic natural aroma.
      It is a medium-bodied wine, whose alcohol level of just 12.5% keeps it fresh and lively. It’s one of those wines you think of having around the braai or at a picnic. It is slightly rustic, with chunky red fruit, rather than velvety plushness. It’s a wine better suited to a hearty lunch outside, than crystal glassware at a stuffy dinner.
      Blends give winemakers freedom to experiment with flavours and combinations of flavours. The Initial Blend from Jean Daneel is a good example. I think its triumph is its ability to combine the plummy, rich fruit of Merlot and flesh it out with spicy Shiraz. It allows for a full-flavoured, but medium-bodied wine, easy on the palate.
      Fashions never last forever, but for now let’s be happy that Blends are the New Black!


Terugvoer van Agrimark Facebook-blad op die vraag:

Enkel kultivar of versnit? Wat verkies jy?

AB Rossouw:  Maak nie saak of dit rooi of wit of droog of soet of semisoet of cultivar of versnit is nie.....drink waarvan jy hou....solank die oorsprong wingerdstok is.

Tony Eva: Great winemakers take great cultivars and blend them to make an even better wine.

Cobus Van Staden: Hang af wat dit is, beide kan werk

Yolanda Boonzaier: Enkel.....en waar kry mens daai ou om dit saam jou te proe...lol

Mariam Samuels: Enkel??? Hoe ouer hoe nouer dan kom die goed gouer

Esme DeWet: Versnit - donkerkop met bietjie grys in

Celesté Brown de Bruyn: As die witwyn koud is en die rooiwyn kamertemp, gee ek regtig nie om oor versnitte of enkel kultivars nie!

Fanus Olivier: Albei het sy plek

Rulene van Zyl: Rooi - Cab/ Merlot!!!!! Wit - Sauvignon Blanc

Charmaine Falck Conradie: Alle rooi wyn is lekker, die droë net bietjie bitter. Maar hoe meer osbloed se kant toe hoe lekkerder. Enkel of versnit, lekker bly lekker.

Jacques Botha: Dit hang af van my gemoedstoestand!  Meestal Shiraz met OF Merlot, of Cabernet Sauvignon versnit. En hoe ouer hoe beter!