Tasting No. 214 – September 30, 2019 – The Effects of Blending

Club del Vino


Capri Ristorante, McLean VA

Tasting Overview  

In this meeting the participants will taste, one red blend and three red varietals made 100% of the grapes in the blend. The  main objectives of this blind tasting are to: a) understand the reasons for blending; b) identify the blend wine; and, c) identify the three main varietal wines in the blend based on the characteristics that each one contributes as explained by the presenters. There will also a Chateauneuf du Pape white blend for participants to evaluate. While southern Rhone red blends are far more common than white blends, the latter are included in several notable appellations in the region. Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc is the most famous of these, using Grenache Blanc, Roussanne and Clairette and a small handful of less known local varieties.

Type of Tasting: Blind

Wines presenters: Mario Aguilar, Germán Zincke

These are the wines:

  1. 2017 Chateau La Nerthe, Chateauneuf du Pape, White Blend, Rhone Valley, France 
  2. 2015 Cousiño Macul, Cabernet Sauvignon Antiguas Reservas, Maipo Valley, Chile
  3. 2016 Faust, Cabernet Sauvignon Red Blend , Napa Valley, California
  4. 2016 Catena, Appellation San Carlos, Cabernet Franc, Valle de Uco Argentina
  5. 2016 Chateau Belle Vue, Petit Verdot, Haut Medoc , Bordeaux, France

This is the tentative menu:

  1. Lobster bisque
  2. Gnocchi au gratin
  3. Capri salad
  4. Filet Mignon with sides
  5. Dessert/Coffee

Participants: Mario Aguilar, Ruth Connolly, Clara Estrada,  Jorge Garcia-Garcia, Alberto Gómez, Jaime Jaramillo, Orlando Mason, Italo Mirkow, Alfonso Sanchez, Jairo Sanchez, Ricardo Santiago, German Zincke, Patricia García (guest), Pedro Belli (guest)

Information on the Wines

(The information below has been compiled from various internet sources, including mostly  Wine Searcher, Wine Folly,  and Wine.com) .

2017 Chateau La Nerthe, Chateauneuf du Pape White Blend, Rhone Valley, France

The Wine:Winemaker Notes: A beautiful pale yellow color with green highlights. On the nose, expressive and complex with pear, pastry and candied citrus tones. Lovely freshness on the palate, with hints of white peach and dried candied fruits. The finish is long with floral notes, a touch of pineapple and green banana, all wrapped in a beautiful sweetness. This elegant and complex white wine pairs beautifully with a wide variety of seafood dishes and can also stand up to lighter meat dishes such as roasted chicken or sautéed veal.

WE: Invigorating aromas of tangerine and lemon zest introduce this luminously fresh, fruity white blend. The palate offers boldly concentrated flavors of yellow peach and mango nuanced by hints of nut, toast and spice. Crisp acidity and a murmur of tannin edge the finish. Delightful already for its fresh, silky appeal, it should improve through 2030.

The principal varieties involved in a white wine from the southern Rhone are any combination of Grenache BlancMarsanneRoussanneViognierUgni BlancClairetteBourboulenc and Picpoul, though other local grapes may be used where appropriate. In the past decade Vermentino (known locally as Rolle) is appearing in an increasing number of blended wines from the southern Rhone.

White Rhône blends are quite versatile food pairing wines and can work with light to medium rich meals that might often be matched to red wines. Heavier fish dishes with bold seasoning like grilled swordfish with caper butter or baked, herb-crusted mahi-mahi are natural allies for these flavorful wines. Other ideal dishes include roast pork in mustard sauce, poached lobster with beurre blanc, or a rich and savory vegetable quiche.

The Winery: Chateau La Nerthe’s existence is documented as early as 1560, while suggesting an even more distant past dating to the dawn of the region’s wine culture in the 12th century making it one of Chateauneuf’s oldest estates. Located in the heart of the Chateauneuf-du-Pape AOC region of southern France not far from Avignon, the 225 acres of Chateau La Nerthe vineyards are in a single block around the Chateau and have been certified Organic since 1998. The terroir is very typical for the region: vineyards runs along a slope, at the top of which the vines dig their roots into soils of sandy-clay, on the surface there is a layer of the famous galettes, large, round, well-worn stones that originated in the Alps, having been carried down to the Rhône by the glaciers of previous ice ages. The further down the slope of the vineyard you travel, the more these stones dominate. All 14 of the permitted primary varietals are plante.  Grenache dominates 62% of vineyards and the vines average over 40 years old. Chateau La Nerthe is THE expression of Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

Read more at: http://www.chateaulanerthe.fr/

 2015 Cousiño Macul, Cabernet Sauvignon, Antiguas Reservas, Maipo Valley, Chile

The Wine: This is a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wine.

Winemaker’s Notes.  Intense bright ruby red color. The aromas are clearly fruity and spicy, giving a first impression of plums, raspberry, cherry and a flowers with fresh pepper — followed by notes of toffee, vanilla and smoke. On the palate, the wine has a medium to high acidity and round tannins. It’s an elegant wine with an intense body and a fresh and long mouth feel.

Great pairing is tenderloin with pepper or truffle sauce and grilled vegetables. Also excellent is goat cheese or mushroom risotto.

The Winery:  Founded in 1856, Cousiño-Macul is the only 19th century winery in Chile that remains in the hands of the original founding family. All Cousiño-Macul reserve wines are estate grown, vinted and bottled. After seven generations and over 150 years, Cousiño-Macul’s mission rings clear — to produce world-class wines that are unmistakably Chilean, carrying the distinctive character of the Maipo Valley. In 1994, the capital city of Santiago had expanded to the point of surrounding the original Macul estate in the southeast of the city, so the search for an additional single estate vineyard location began. In May 1996, the Cousiño family bought 750 acres of land in Buin, an agriculturally rich subregion of the Maipo Valley, about 20 miles southeast of Santiago. The Buin estate met the Cousiños’ ambitious criteria of soil composition, climate and proximity to the Andes Mountains. Few wine producers can make a completely new start, incorporating the best of their age-old experience and the most contemporary technology available. As technology continues to advance in the vineyards and wineries around the world, Cousiño Macul has seized this opportunity to innovate while staying true to the most important part of their long history.

Read more at: https://www.cousinomacul.com/en/

2016 Faust, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California

The Wine:Winemaker Notes: The 2016 Faust Cabernet is a blend of their estate vineyards in Coombsville and Rutherford and mountain sourcing in Atlas Peak, Mount Veeder, and Howell Mountain. Intense yet fresh with juicy blue and black notes. Notes of dark chocolate and dried herbs seduce the palate while silky tannins and lifting acidity leads to a layered and lingering finish.

RP: The 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon is blended of 82% Cabernet Sauvignon with smaller portions of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, aged for 19 months in 30% new French oak. The core of the fruit comes from the Coombsville estate blended with some mountain and valley floor fruit from elsewhere. Medium to deep garnet-purple colored, it offers a beautiful core of ripe blackcurrants, blackberries and lavender with nuances of cedar chest, pencil lead and camphor plus a waft of tilled soil. Medium to full-bodied, the palate has a nice, firm backbone of ripe, grainy tannins and well-played freshness delivering a long, vibrant finish.

Cabernet Sauvignon is probably the most famous red wine grape variety on Earth. It is rivaled in this regard only by its Bordeaux table mate Merlot, and its opposite number in Burgundy, Pinot Noir. From its origins in Bordeaux, Cabernet has successfully spread to almost every wine growing country in the world. It is now the key grape variety in many first-rate New World wine regions, most notably Napa Valley, Coonawarra and Maipo Valley. Wherever they come from, Cabernet Sauvignon wines always seem to demonstrate a handful of common character traits: deep color, good tannin structure, moderate acidity and aromas of blackcurrant, tomato leaf, dark spices and cedar wood.

Cabernet Sauvignon undoubtedly dominates Napa Valley today, covering half of the land under vine, commanding the highest prices per ton and earning the most critical acclaim. Cabernet Sauvignon’s structure, acidity, capacity to thrive in multiple environs and ability to express nuances of vintage make it perfect for Napa Valley where incredible soil and geographical diversity are found and the climate is perfect for grape growing. Within the Napa Valley lie many smaller sub-AVAs that express specific characteristics based on situation, slope and soil—as a perfect example, Rutherford’s famous dust or Stags Leap District’s tart cherry flavors

The Winery: Faust Winery is the creation of Augustin Huneeus and it continues to satisfy his long-held desire to produce a wine that embodies the most seductive characteristics of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

Born in Santiago, Chile, Agustin is one of the few vintners who has dedicated his entire professional life to wine.  With a career spanning 50 years, he has produced wine in more than 15 countries.  Perhaps best known today for creating Quintessa, the stunning bio dynamic vineyard and winery estate he and his wife Valeria own in Rutherford, Napa Valley, Agustin is recognized as a driving force in how fine wine is produced, recognized, sold and marketed in the United States.  The philosophy that great vineyards make great wine is his guiding principle.

The Faust vineyard is in Coombsville, Napa Valley’s newest appellation located in the eastern foothills south of Atlas Peak.  It consists of 110 acres of mature Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot vines, with small plantings of Petit Verdot, Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc.  The vineyard is farmed in ten distinct blocks, all of which have a unique character.  Yields on the property are especially low as extra care is put into practices such as winter pruning, green harvest and selective picking. Faust also seeks small lots from family growers in other unique Napa Valley growing districts including Yountville, Atlas Peak, Mount Veeder, St. Helena and Rutherford.

Faust seeks to express the complexity of Cabernet Sauvignon and the diversity of the Napa Valley by sourcing from estate vineyards in Coombsville and Rutherford, as well as small lots from spectacular mountain AVAs such as Atlas Peak, Mount Veeder and Howell Mountain. Uniting these disparate regions allowed Faust to create a rich, full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon that truly represents the soul of the grape.

Read more at: https://faustwine.com/

2016 Catena, Appellation San Carlos, Cabernet Franc, Valle de Uco, Argentina

The Wine: Winemaker Notes: The Catena Cabernet Franc Appellation El Cepillo presents a purple color with red ruby tones. The nose offers elegant aromas of spices, and fresh herbs as thyme and rosemary, red berries, cassis and raspberries, with layers of cedar. The mouthfeel is full and rich with cassis, raspberries flavors and notes of black pepper and oregano . The finish is bright and fresh with finely grained tannins.

RP: The Appellation range keeps growing, and the new name this time is the 2016 Appellation San Carlos Cabernet Franc, produced with grapes from the most fashionable red variety at the moment. It is from 20-year-old vines in El Cepillo, one of the cooler places of San Carlos in Valle de Uco. Furthermore, 2016 was a particularly cool year, so the wine is really a cool climate example. It matured in French oak barrels for one year before bottling. It has tons of black pepper aromas and flavors, balsamic and with perfect ripeness. 2016 has produced outstanding wines in this Appellation range.”

This versatile wine is fantastic paired with rich meat dishes such as stews and braises, Latin dishes with heat and a little kick such as enchiladas or moles and lamb dishes and tomato-based pasta and sauces. This wine is also delicious paired with dark chocolate and berries and served alongside a cheese plate.

Cabernet Franc, the subtler and more delicate of the Cabernets, is a proud parent of Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabernet Franc is lighter than Cabernet Sauvignon, making a bright pale red wine that contributes finesse and lends a peppery perfume to blends with more robust grapes. Depending on the growing region and style of wine, additional aromas can include tobacco, raspberry, bell pepper, cassis, and violets. While both are important grapes in modern day, high quality Bordeaux, interestingly, Cabernet Franc most likely originated from the Basque region of France sometime during the middle 1600’s. Today Cabernet Franc produces outstanding single varietal wines across the wine-producing world, with some of its most classic examples from France’s Loire Valley, in the regions of Chinon, Bourgueil and Saumur-Champigny. Outside of France, Cabernet Franc performs quite well in parts of California, New York and Virginia. It is also a great blending grape.

The Winery: Bodega Catena Zapata is one of the foremost wine estates in Mendoza, Argentina. Founded in 1902 and still in family hands, it is particularly known for its rich, full-bodied red wines, usually made from Malbec, and also for its barrel-fermented Chardonnay sourced from high-altitude sites, which combine ripeness with fresh acidity. Owner Nicolás Catena was Decanter Magazine man of the year in 2009.

The estate is made up of six vineyards in the Luján de Cuyo, Tupungato and San Carlos sub-regions of Mendoza, at altitudes ranging from 3000-4750 feet (920-1450m) above sea level. The winery, with its striking, Mayan-influenced pyramid shape, is located in Agrelo, in Luján de Cuyo.

San Carlos Vineyard (1090m/3576ft). Alluvial origin. Loamy sandy soil with thick calcareous layers with rounded rocks on the bottom (70% Sand – 10% Clay – 20% Silt).

Read more at: http://www.catenawines.com/index.php

2016 Chateau Belle Vue, Petit Verdot, Haut Medoc , Bordeaux, France

The Wine: WE: Bold and ripe, this rich wine is concentrated and full of spicy black fruits. Produced from a tiny parcel of Petit Verdot that escaped the devastating frost of 1956, it is dark, dense with layers of blueberry flavors alongside the firm tannins. The richness of the wine and its weight promise good aging. Drink from 2023.

JS:  A red with gorgeous density and dried-berry, spice and blueberry character. Full and polished. Lovely texture. This is 100% Petit Verdot. Exceptional quality. First ever wine from here.

Notes taken from Wine-SearcherPetit Verdot is a red wine grape whose small, thick-skinned berries are valued for their depth of color. Traditionally the variety has played a small role in the classic blends of Bordeaux, but varietal Petit Verdot wines are now appearing in many regions of southern Europe, the Americas and Australia.  It ripens much later than the other varieties in Bordeaux, often too late, so it fell out of favour in its home region. When it does ripen it adds tannin, colour and flavour, in small amounts, to the blend.

Petit Verdot has, unsurprisingly, a less well known but larger-berried cousin,  Gross Verdot. The Verdot part of the name translates roughly as “green one” and reflects the variety’s propensity to under-ripeness; in cool seasons Petit Verdot vines produce bunches speckled with green, unripe berries.  Due to the high levels of anthocyanin in the berry’s thick skins, Petit Verdot wines tend to have a dense, inky, violet-black appearance. They also have high tannin levels, thanks to the small berries – specifically their high ratio of skin and seeds to juice

The Winery: We cultivate 24 hectares (60 acres) of terraced mountainside stretching from our lowest vineyards at 950 meters to the highest at over 1200 meters of altitude.  The vineyards wrap around the valley under Bhamdoun village from NE to SW, enjoying snow and rain from November to April followed by a dry warm summer.

The vines are dry-farmed from year two.  No pesticides or herbicides are used. Cover crops help maintain soil structure, avoid erosion and balance water availability.  Grapes are hand-picked by varietal in cases of 20 kg at the moment of optimal balance between potential alcohol and acidity.

Our organic vineyards are carefully pruned to yield just over one ton of grapes per hectare, an unheard of amount which necessarily reflects the demands of our mountain terriors.  We’ve elected to practice dry farming, opting for small, thick-skinned grapes of wonderful color and concentration.  Our focus on excellence begins in the vineyards.

All fruit is hand-harvested by varietal in cases of 20 kgs when an optimal level of potential alcohol and acidity is attained. Natural fermentation, with no added yeast, lasts three to four weeks and takes place in stainless steel tanks.  Wine is then pressed and stored until malolactic fermentation is complete.  Barrel aging, again by varietal, extends over 24 months in new French oak.  Blends are then selected using the clean, finished wine.  The blended wine is bottled and aged again for at least two years

Read more at: https://www.thewinecellarinsider.com/bordeaux-wine-producer-profiles/bordeaux/haut-medoc-lesser-appellations/belle-vue/

CV Members Rating

View full evaluation here: 2104 Summary of Tasting Scores

Best Rated Wine: 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Red Blend Faust, Napa Valley, California

Best Buy: 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Cousiño Macul Antiguas Reservas

Technical Notes 

Wine Production and Blending: [Information obtained from google.com]

The earliest archaeological evidence of wine produced from grapes has been found at sites in China (c. 7000 BC), Georgia (c. 6000 BC), Lebanon (c 5000 BC), Iran (c. 5000 BC), Greece (c. 4500 BC), and Sicily (c. 4100 BC). However, there is no certainty as to when the practice of wine blending started.  It seems that combining grape varieties to improve flavor and aromatic qualities didn’t become popular until the 1800s, many centuries after wine consumption and knowledge became fashionable.

Famous Blends. Though there are infinite variants for blending, nineteen (19) blends have become famous, producing wines with desirable characteristics, based on tradition and experience.  Only eighteen grapes (18) are eligible for these blends, although each wine denomination allows for fewer specific grapes.  These can go from two (i.e. Red Bourgogne, White Bourgogne) to fourteen for Chateauneuf du Pape.

Emerging blends. More recently other blends have appeared. These comprise: Pinot Noir; CMS (Cabernet, Merlot, Shiraz); Zinfandel; Carmenere; Malbec and others.

Wines added for blending.  These wines are each generally added in smaller quantities than the main wine.  For red wines, for example, Cabernet Frank, Petit Verdot, Petit Shiraz, etc.  For white wines, for example, Aligote, Garnacha Blanca, Trebbiano, etc. However in some blends there might not be a main wine.

Read more about blending here:




The Grapes Behind Your Favorite Wine Blends

The Joys of Blending

Chateauneuf du Pape.

The wine of Chateauneuf-du-Pape takes its name from the relocation of the papal court to Avignon. After moving in 1309, Pope Clément V ordered that vines were planted. But it was his successor, John XXII, who established the vineyards. The name however, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, translated as “the pope’s new castle,” didn’t really stick until the 19th century.

According to law, eighteen grape varieties are allowed in Chateauneuf-du-Pape and most wines are blends of some mix of these. For reds, Grenache is the star player with Mourvedre and Syrah coming typically second. Others used include Cinsault, Counoise and occasionally Muscardin, Vaccarèse, Picquepoul Noir and Terret Noir.

Only about 6-7% of wine from Chateauneuf-du-Pape is white. Blends and single-varietal bottlings are typically based on the soft and floral Grenache Blanc but Clairette, Bourboulenc and Roussanne are grown with some significance




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