Sunday, August 19, 2007

Let's Mix It Up!

I'm not proposing a fight, but a blending of two styles. For instance, two unique individuals decide to get married, bringing their distinct tastes into the relationship and they stay together for awhile. Now, imagine visiting their home six months later to see how they have decorated and what they like to eat and drink. Take that analogy and apply it to wine.

Blending can enhance aroma; improve the color; add or minimize flavors and tastes; adjust the pH of a wine; lower or raise acidity; raise or lower alcohol levels; adjust the sweetness of a wine and raise or lower levels of tannin. Blending is used to improve the quality, character and complexity of wine.

Winemakers can blend different varieties; blend grapes from different vineyards; blend wines from different vintages; blend by mixing and matching different varietals from a variety of vineyards; blend wines that have received different vinification or blend wines from different casks or barrels. Basically, you can blend any time but it is most often done between fermentation and bottling.

If the wine maker has a specific goal, they will use a tool called the Pearson Square.

The center of the square, represents the "target" value we want to blend for (in this case, we want to obtain a wine of 12% alcohol).
The upper left corner, represents the known alcohol percentage of wine #1 (Our first is 15% alcohol).
The lower left corner, represents the known alcohol percentage of wine #2 (another which is 11% alcohol).

To use the Pearson Square, find the difference between the values in the corner and the center "target" value, and place the answer in the opposite corners. This value is always the absolute value (no negative numbers allowed!) of the difference.... so, for our example:
15 minus 12 equals 3, and12 minus 11 equals 1.

We will need 3 parts of the 11% wine to mix with 1 part of the 15% wine to end up with our "target" wine of 12%. Pretty neat, huh? It's easy to use this equation when you want to raise or lower pH, acidity, sugar levels, etc. Just put your target value in the center, your known values for the two wines in the left corners, and do some subtraction to obtain the mixing ratios.

Meritage is a trademarked name for Bordeaux-style red and white blends coined by a group of fellow California winemakers in 1988. Some of America's best-known "establishment" wines are bottled under proprietary names, wines like the Mondavi-Rothschild joint venture, Opus One; Justin Vineyards' Isosceles; Dominus by Christian Moueix; Joseph Phelps' Insignia.

Don't be afraid to mix it up!