Monday, February 9, 2015

Blending Great Wines is Hard Work

In Keswick's Barrel Room
Preparing for the Blending

It happened again this year. We enjoyed a day at one of our favorite Virginia wineries blending wine and having a great time while learning more about how good wines come together. 

This year's edition of the Keswick Vineyards Consensus Blending is now complete. We competed on the next to last day with our friends and attempted to blend a winning wine from raw materials.

The Wines and the Tools
This year the wines being blended were all 2014 vintages of Syrah, Touriga, Chambourcin, and Norton. We were impressed with the depth and color of the Touring, Syrah and Chambourcin. The Norton was definitely a light bodied wine that packed a lot of fruit and acidity. It was a lot like cranberry juice. All in all, my evaluation of the 2014 vintage is pretty good. The wines are generally intense with nice color and a richness rarely seen in Virginia.

One of the greatest benefits of being a member of the Keswick Vineyards Wine Club is having the ability to participate in this annual event and go behind the scenes to learn the hard truth about wine making and wine blending. It is not romantic, but it is hard work and after you taste 18 different blends it is difficult keep them all straight and to keep the tongue cleansed enough to sense the differences between the offerings. Did we mention that the barrel room is cold? Kept in the mid-50's we got cold soaked by the end of the day--but it was all worth it.

After roughly two and a half hours of blending, we had our best blend. It was a wine composed of 39 percent Syrah, 43 percent Touriga, and 18 percent Chambourcin. I kept trying to get a percent or two of Norton in the blend, but it just didn't work. 
Wine Stained Hands after a Day of Blending

The fun part of blending is realizing how even a percent of a particular wine can make a big difference in the flavor, the nose, and the mouth feel of a wine.

Our group of six thought we had a really good wine--and our assessment was confirmed although it came up short against another blend and we came in second for the day. During the blind tasting part of the day, I have to admit that I rated the winning wine as the best of the day and our creation, was tied for second. 

My recommendation? Find a winery with an active wine club and get involved. It will increase you knowledge about wine in ways that you could never imagine.

-- Bob and Christina Doan, Elkridge, MD

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