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What the Heck is up with Red Blends?

Updated: Apr 29

Red blends are an interesting trend that's quickly gaining popularity in the wine industry. I purposely use the word "interesting" because red blends have been around since wine's inception. So they are nothing new but are definitely witnessing a resurgence of attention in recent times. Simply put, a red blend is a wine that consists of more than one grape varietal. If this description sounds vague to you, it's because it is. There are nearly endless possibilities of what a red blend can be. Sidebar: with that being said, please don't ask me for a recommendation on a good red blend. It confuses me and makes me sad when I can't help you out.

To throw another wrench in the red blend definition, technically speaking, most wines, even single varietal, are red blends. Like California, Oregon, and Washington, American wine countries (among others) require a minimum amount of the noble grape to be considered single varietal. Meaning, the Pinot Noir from California that's sitting on your dining room table is probably only 75% from the Pinot Noir grape. It's a little confusing, but I don't make the rules.

Red blends are equally as elusive as they are popular. Some people can't get enough of them. Others are strictly single varietal drinkers and don't let them anywhere near the dinner table. Let's examine some of the intricacies of this mysterious drink.

The History Part

As you can probably put together, red blends have been around since prehistoric times. As winemaking gained popularity in Europe, blends actually became more popular than single varietal wines. This is because simply put, they were easier to produce. Before wine countries had the luxury of harvesting extensive vineyards of a single grape, they were picking various grapes to harvest and ferment across a given region. Perhaps the most famous example is Bordeaux, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. It originated in the Bordeaux region of France and is still widely available at a fairly reasonable price.

Although several wine countries have their own version of Bordeaux, through the years, red blends have gained a negative reputation of "lower quality." This is likely due to the assumption that the term "red blend" denotes table wine made from any grapes that the winemaker could muster up. And while that is undoubtedly true in some examples, the same argument can be made for single varietals as well. Like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay, an expensive red blend is as common as a $5 bottom shelf one.

Red Blend Food Pairings

The fun part about red blends is that with unlimited potential, there are endless pairings. Blends can range in body, acidity, flavor, and region, so your pairing choices really come down to the individual bottle you are drinking. I suggest checking the back of the bottle to see if it gives you any clues about the style of wine. As a general rule of thumb, like most single varietal red wines, these drinks will pair nicely with red meat or fuller dishes like a vegetable and pasta dish with a rich, creamy sauce. When in doubt, check the country the blend is from and pair it with a meal from that same country.


For those looking to get into red blends but are intimidated with where to start, you are not alone. It can be tricky picking out a bottle of wine that you don't usually drink because there is nothing worse than taking a risk and trying something new, only to pour the whole bottle down the sink because it's undrinkable. A go-to brand that I pick up when I'm in the mood for a good blend is the 19 Crimes Red Blend. It's packed with all of those fruity, jammy flavors that we love. It also contains notes of caramel and mocha due to its bourbon barrel aging.

Another red blend that I love is a Rioja. Much like Bordeaux, Rioja is a wine made from grapes hailing in the Rioja region of Spain. It largely comprises of the Tempranillo grape, with secondary grapes including Grenache, Carnigan, and Graciano rounding out the blend. This wine is vibrant, fruity, and full of everything you would hope for in a glass of Spanish wine.

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