Always Drink Responsibly

22 March 2013

From the Winemaker's Studio: Is that Cab you love 100% Cab? Probably not.

One of the little known facts about wine identification and wine in competitions is that wines classified by the state or judged in a competition as a single varietal---e.g., Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sangiovese---need only contain 75% of that varietal to be legally given the varietal name or be judged as that varietal.

As a winemaker, I know that the addition of a very small percentage of a varietal can significantly change a wine.  To illustrate with a more familiar food experience: when cooking, adding 1% percent salt or pepper or just about any spice or condiment to a soup or stew has a significant effect on its flavor. Wine is similar in that respect.  Even 1% of any varietal can significantly effect the aroma and flavor of any given wine.

Wine competitions and the state can do as they wish. And many consumers prize wines blended with different varietals. The most famous blended wines are from Bordeaux---different percentages of, typically, Cabernet, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. But wines from Europe are identified by region and their contents controlled by strict laws. As a consequence, consumers there know a red wine from the Cote d' Or is made from Pinot Noir grapes and a red from Bordeaux has various percentages of the aforementioned grapes.

But in Washington, a bottle labelled Cabernet Sauvignon may legally have 25% Syrah blended in it. A bottled labelled Sangiovese may have significant amounts of Merlot and Malbec. And those blends are regarded as single varietals in competitions.

Consumers should know that when purchasing an award winning Cabernet Sauvignon, or any wine for that matter, whether it contains that varietal alone and not Cabernet with significant amounts of Malbec. Consumers should know what 100% Sangiovese the varietal smells and tastes like as well as "Sangiovese" blended with 20% Merlot.

Good wine can be a blend of varietals or a 100% varietal. Whatever the case, we should know its contents in order to truthfully inform our palates and our wallets.

hugh remash
eagle harbor wine co.
1818 Eagle Harbor Ln. NE
Bainbridge Island WA 98110