One of the greatest Dark Arts to come from the hundreds of years of wine-making around the world is the alchemy of blending red wines.
True, an apprenticeship, combined with years of experience and tradition may help, but I can’t help to be impressed by the blending craftsmanship of the wizard winemakers. Take a base varietal, usually Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz (or South Africa’s beloved Pinotage), then chuck in a bit of what you fancy until it tastes amazing. This is maybe over-simplifying the process a little, to the point where Cape Wine Masters may be sharpening their ceremonial disembowelling sabrage swords as they read this. One has to consider the ageing process of each of the ingredients, as well as the longevity of the tannins and balance of the fruit structures, and of course, the all-important name. But however the symphonies of Red Blends are composed, they are wines of great distinction, and lay bare the souls of the craftsmen who create them.
It would also seem that creativity is at its highest when it comes to naming Red Blends, certainly in South Africa. We have mythological references from Doolhof with “The Minotaur”, Quoin Rock’s “The Centaur” and “Triton” from Black Oystercatcher; a diplomatic, formal introduction to “The Ambassador” from Beau Joubert; Beyerskloof opted for the wine-integration inference with “Synergy”; Mark Lindhorst of Lindhorst Wines, with his accountancy background, has produced “Strategy” and “Statement”; Saronsberg make reference to the Tulbagh earthquake with their “Seismic” blend; Thelema consider the philosophical heritage of their name with “Rabelais”; whereas Oldenburg opt to share the name and attributes of the rare South African metal, “Rhodium” – produced in very small quantities in South Africa. A number of estates, such as Peter Falke and Ernie Els, simply and effectively call their Red Blend flagship wine “Signature”. See? Creativity, I love it.
I could go on at great length about Red Blend names (what do you mean, I already have?), but the principle is the same: make a wine that YOU want to make, to showcase your skill, ability and passion.
Prices and the larger percentage base varietals vary hugely across the spectrum of Red Blends, and with over 150 different blends available in the abuzzWine catalogue, it’s been quite an epic mission to choose just five. I know, it’s a tough life, but I’ve finally made my selection with a range of base varietals and prices:
Lindsay’s Whimsy 2010
R48.25 / bottle
Blend: Pinotage 50%; Cabernet Sauvignon 30%; Merlot 20%
Overseen by the estate’s owner, Lindsay Hunting, there’s coffee, mocha and chocolate on the nose, with aromas of vanilla, raspberry, red cherries and mulberries. A soft entry, firm mid palate with flavours of blackcurrant and plums.
Nick’s Note: One of my all-time favourites, and possibly one of the best value red blends you will ever buy. A real “Fruit Bomb.”
The Max 2010
R83.33 / bottle
Blend: Cabernet Sauvignon 58%; Merlot 38%, Petit Verdot & Malbec
This wine, like its namesake, our 9 year old Jack Russell, has serious attitude and it is now also full-bodied! All of the components were picked later than usual to ensure that the tannins, while still big and grippy, are also soft and ripe.
Nick’s Note: Any wine that can be compared to a Jack Russell has to be tried!
R87.72 / bottle
Blend: Cabernet Sauvignon 40%; Shiraz 40%; Pinotage 20%
This wine brings together the nobility of Cabernet Sauvignon, the excitement of Shiraz and the uniqueness of Pinotage. The culmination of these experiences presents you with a wine that is structured, balanced and time honoured. Your enjoyment of it is our pleasure.
Nick’s note: Yes, I am a James Bond fan, so this would always be one of my favourites!
Partner’s Choice 2007
R131.58 / bottle
Blend: Cab Sauvignon 49%; Shiraz 49%; Pinotage 2%
This wine is a masterpiece of blending. The nose has aromas of plums, black cherry, cigar box and lead pencil. On the palate, ripe dark fruit flavours, good tannin texture and mid-palate weight.
Nick’s Note: Mark Lindhorst tells me that the Cabernet always holds the majority percentage, but the other ingredients may change each year, to ensure a perfect blend.
R289.47 / bottle
Blend: Merlot 50%; Cabernet Franc 40%; Malbec 10%
On the nose, sun-dried tomato pesto, pencil shavings, herbs and bright red berries. Ripe, integrated tannins add structure to the dry palate, which is packed with blueberries and fresh herbs. Oak spice allows the fruit to take centre stage, a beautifully balanced wine.
Nick’s Note: 2013 was the maiden release of this giant-slayer, winning admiration from all over the world.