Every avid home cook and rock star restaurant chef knows that blending the right ingredients can make delicious dishes that are greater than the sum of their parts.
A French coq au vin starts with a mirepoix, a blend of onion, carrot and celery. A Cajun gumbo isn’t right without the “holy trinity” of onion, celery and green bell pepper. An Italian wouldn’t make a minestrone without its sofrito of onion, carrot, celery, fennel, garlic and parsley.
Winemakers know this too. French champagne is often a blend of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier. An Australian red is probably based on that country’s own “holy trinity” – shiraz, grenache and mourvedre.
Rules are strict in some areas. A champagne producer couldn’t put a dollop of chenin blanc in his bubbly. But rules are more flexible elsewhere these days. Winemakers in many areas can blend just about anything with just about anything else – as long as the finished product tastes good. And they’re doing it more and more. Some examples:
B Cellars Winery in Napa, Calif., has a “Blend 23” white wine that is 47 percent sauvignon blanc, 44 percent chardonnay and 9 percent viognier. The sauvignon blanc is for tropical fruit flavors and crisp acids, the chardonnay for savory minerality and the viognier for lively grapefruit flavors and viscosity. The result is a lively, fruity, complex white wine with the full-bodied smoothness fondly described as “mouth-feel.”
In Sonoma, Calif., Robert Sinskey Vineyards makes a white called “Abraxas,” blending riesling for its zingy acids, pinot blanc for its green apple flavors, pinot gris for its melons and pears and gewürztraminer for its spicy lychee flavors.
In Italy, Mionetto, the prosecco people, make a sweet, sparkling cocktail by infusing light-bodied wine with aromatic elderflowers. Only 8 percent alcohol, it’s to be poured over ice for a crisp, feathery, light summer cocktail.
In Spain’s Catalonia region, the sparkling wines called cavas are often blends of three white grapes – floral macabeo, crisp xarel-lo and light-bodied parellada.
What, if anything, do all these white blends have in common? They’re light and bright and intensely fruity. So they’re great with light summer fare like picnic sandwiches, chicken, tuna and salmon salads, grilled chicken breasts and such.
• 2012 Robert Sinskey Vineyards “Abraxas” Vin de Terroir, Scintilla Vineyard, Sonoma (riesling, pinot blanc, pinot gris, gewürztraminer): white flower aromas, racy apple and spice flavors and crisp minerals; $36.
• 2012 B Cellars Winery “Blend 23” white wine, Napa Valley (47 percent sauvignon blanc, 44 percent chardonnay, 9 percent viognier): Hint of oak, flavors of ripe peaches and oranges and minerals, full body, long finish; $37.
• 2013 Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Blanc, by Michel Chapoutier, Cotes du Roussillon, France (grenache blanc, grenache gris, vermentino, macabeo): light-bodied and crisp, with intense flavors of white grapefruit and limes; $13.
• 2013 Franciscan Estate “Equilibrium White Blend,” Napa Valley (72 percent sauvignon blanc, 17 percent chardonnay, 11 percent muscat): light and lively, with flavors of apricots and pears, $23.
• 2011 Pepi Winery “Chenin Blanc-Viognier” white wine, Calif. (66 percent chenin blanc, 34 percent viognier): white-flower aromas, flavors of mangos, light-bodied and crisp; $10
• 2013 Duca del Frassino Garganega/Pinot Grigio della Venezie, by Cantina di Soave, Italy (garganega, pinot grigio): light and crisp, with aromas and flavors of apples and pears; $20 per 1.5-liter box.
Fred Tasker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.