by Eugenio Jardim | Wines of Portugal US Ambassador
I find the recent rush of enthusiasm towards the “so called” unknown or undiscovered European wine countries quite amusing. Although many of these nations’ wine cultures, like Portugal’s, date back to the Bronze Age, some may still think of them as the “new wine frontier”.
I’m equally entertained by the new wave of appreciation for “blended wines,” as if blending grapes was something new.
As our dear friend Ray Isle of Food & Wine Magazine wrote:
“Red blends now sell more, by volume, than either Pinot Noir or Merlot, and they’re on track to become even more popular than Cabernet Sauvignon, the longtime red wine king. It’s a strange category, because many, and possibly even most, red wines are and have always been blends.” Nov 10, 2016
Portuguese winemakers mastered the art of blending centuries ago, taking full advantage of the 250 plus grape varieties native of their small Iberian nation. Portugal’s wine heritage is also unique in that it rarely expresses a single grape variety on its own.
The “Vinhas Velhas” (old vines) of Portugal represent more than just a glimpse of the past: they also demonstrate producers’ keen understanding of their land and of the innumerous stylistic possibilities afforded by blended wines.
Some grapes bring vibrant aromas to the mix, while others contribute with seductive and lush fruitiness. Some frame the final wine with sturdy structure, ensuring its longevity, while others preserve its freshness with long-lasting and electrifying acidity. The art of blending unrelated grape varieties, beyond stylistic freedom, allows winemakers to strike a perfect balance: this explains why the tradition of blending has been so deeply rooted in Portugal’s winemaking heritage.
I’ve heard many using the image of a single voice versus a choir to illustrate the difference between a single variety and a blended wine. While both have their individual charm and beauty, it is difficult to argue against the thrill brought on by iconic blended wines (choir), such as those from Champagne, Bordeaux, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Chianti or Port.
So, cheers to old traditions and new discoveries; Long Live Blended Wines!!
Learn more and join Eugenio Jardim at SommCon Washington D.C. July 22-24, as he leads the session Portugal: Variety is the Name of the Game for an exploration of wines from all over Portugal. Portugal boasts over 250 native grape varieties, plus quite a few “adopted” ones; a blessing or a curse? According to recent statistics a blessing indeed! Especially considering that Portugal is similar in size to Maine. The incredible array of grapes combined with the extreme variation of terroirs results in many delightful wines.