Blending/Must Settling

 Blending

Once both free-run and pressed wine has been produced the winemaker has the difficult decision of choosing what to blend together. For the top tier wines of regions such as Burgundy, there is no blending and are simply 100% free-run wines. For most other wines the maker blends in a small portion of press wine to bulk up and utilise every drop of juice. Outside of single varietal wines there is also the need to blend together different grape types to form a final blend of unique flavours and characteristics. Choosing the percentages of each varietal is heavily reliant on the vintage and what the resultant varietals bloomed into. Winemakers sit down with bottles of each grape and slowly portion out different ratios, continually tasting until they find the perfect combination for that year. This is why Bordeaux blends constantly have different ratios each vintage, to accommodate the weather as well as the evolution of the winemaker's signature flavours.

The blending of wines is rarely done by a single person, often bringing together the team at the domaine or multiple family members at the smaller chateaux. It is a sensory experience that relies heavily on the memory of the tasters to find the best combination. Not only tasting for the current elements but for how it may taste when reaching maturity in the bottle, therefore this serious blending process can take from a few days to several weeks, before assembling the definitive blend.

For a select few winemakers, often in Burgundy, the blending is done after maturing so as to not combine the press and free-run wines until they are in their peak ageing period. 

Champagne Blending

In the home of sparkling wine, Champagne, the blending process is one of the key elements separating this region from others. Not only is it press and free-run wines that are blended, but the blending of different crus, different varietals, and different vintages too. There are subtle differences between grapes grown in different crus, due to the soils and overall terroir of the vineyards. Therefore, wines blended between different crus end up being a reflection of the area as a whole, illustrating all the beautiful different characters across the appellation.

Similar to most blended wines, Champagne also utilises different varietal blends, yet strictly Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Meunier. The mix of blends brings complementary qualities of each grape, with Meunier being most unique to the region and bringing the elements of roundness and supple yet intense fruits. As expected, Pinot Noir brings strength and structure and Chardonnay brings the final element of finesse with its floral notes. Wines that are not blended with multiple varietals are labelled as ‘Blanc de Blancs’ for Chardonnay and ‘Blanc de Noirs’ for Pinot Noir.

Cross-vintage blending is done around the world to create NV (non-vintage) wines but no one does it quite like a Champagne maker. With weather so varied year to year, the best way to form a seamless and reliable wine every vintage is to blend them together. A reserve is often set up from a particularly good year, in which every vintage onward the new vinified wine is added to the reserve. This accumulates over time with each year winemakers having a percentage of pure vintage wine with a percentage of reserve wine to maintain the same flavours and characteristics. Only in truly exceptional years are there Champagne wines of a single vintage.

Must Settling

Whether the wines are blended or not, they will be quite cloudy and filled with floating sediment. Must settling is the practice of letting the wine sit for a period of time to allow the solid particles to sink to the bottom of the vessels and be removed. The clear wine is then transferred to barrels for malolactic fermentation.

 

 

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