Red blends are filing wine shelves more than in the past, and the notion that a wine that doesn’t have a grape’s name on its label is somehow lesser — like a common table wine — is fading. As fewer people give blends the side-eye, the category grows.
Red blends are great if you have concluded grenache, cabernet sauvignon or merlot by themselves don’t appeal to you. Maybe you would rather enjoy them as part of a team.
These wines may call themselves “red blends” or just rely on a fanciful name. In either case, you may want to do some decoding on the back label, where responsible producers will tell you the predominant grapes used and give some clues as to whether you are holding one of those sweet, rich reds or a dry wine.
In Europe, producers label wines by region, not by grape varietal. That’s how consumers buy it. They order a Sancerre, invoking the village in the Loire Valley, rather a sauvignon blanc. When the United States wine industry developed over the 20th century, it moved from borrowing European words such as Chianti, Burgundy and the rest to relying on grape names. In the United States, people began to think that blends were lesser wines, made with leftover or secondary grapes, which may have been true, but not always.
I recently tried some red blends good for fall from the menagerie.
As its name suggests, Buty Winery Beast Wildebeest Red Wine Columbia Valley offers powerful character of blueberry and plum, moderate tannins and a tangy finish. The grape lineup is syrah, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and malbec. $14.
Don’t let the boar fool you. Although the word Eberle translates into “small boar” in German, that giant of a vintner, Gary Eberle, was not a Razorback when he played college football in the 1960s. The Moon Twp. native was a Nittany Lion. Eberle Full Boar Red Paso Robles is non-vintage wine, which you don’t see too often. The medium-bodied wine offers some raspberry character and spiciness up front but not much structure in the finish. This mostly cabernet offering with a splash of zinfandel, barbera and sangiovese may be best suitable for a tailgate. $26.
When considering blends, remember that Bordeaux and Rhone wines, of course, also are a blends. Meritage is a Bordeaux-style blend made elsewhere. Check the back label and shelf-talkers and try some blends.
GRADE: Exceptional , Above average , Good , Below average , Poor .