Ask Wine Wizard

Tips For Blending Wine


Denise Packard — Prosser, Washington asks,

I’ve had the great luck to belong to a home winemaking group in Washington State where a lot of my fellow members make many different kinds of wine (I’m just starting out). We’ve got Access to Varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah, and even Petite Sirah, which all grow pretty well here. In order to use up some of our small lots, and to make a creative challenge for ourselves, we’ve decided to pool our odd-duck kegs and carboys together and have a “Make the Best Blend” contest. The winning blend will be distributed amongst the participants with the winner getting bragging rights and a slightly larger number of bottles.

We’re all going to be given about 375 mLs of each possible component, a 10-mL pipette, and a 100-mL blending cylinder. Our components are all of the varieties I list above and they’re different ages too (like I said, it’s kind of the scraps). Some of them have some aged character but most are pretty fresh. We’re not forced to use all of them, but I need to create the best blend I can using what I’ve Got. Help me, Wine Wizard, you’re my only hope!

I think that’s a pretty cool idea! How many of us are lucky enough to hang out with such an obviously collaboratively minded group of folks? And, though it may seem daunting, there’s nothing like jumping in and getting started. At the very least you’ll learn something going through the process yourself and I’m sure you’ll learn a lot from your fellow winemaking club team members! Here are some of my top pieces of blending advice: • Work Small: My first piece of advice is definitely not to do your trial blends in quantities more than 50 mLs! You’ve only got a small amount of wine to work with so you need to keep your samples very small. This means that you’ll have to be working in really tiny volumes. Can you get a 5-mL pipette (or even a 1-mL?), which would mean you can work in smaller quantities and save wine as you go along? For just one person, for beginning tastes, you really only need 25 mLs.  • Make a spreadsheet: Don’t just randomly toss bits of wine
Response by Alison Crowe.