Once you’ve mastered the basics of winemaking at home, it’s fun to experiment with blending your vintages, whether you want to change color, alcohol content, acidity or flavor. By following a few simple mathematical rules and using a bit of creativity, you can come up with some fascinating, flavorful wines to savor for years to come.
There is a bit more to blending wines than simply swirling one vintage in with another, and the most simple and predictable part of the process is the use of the Pearson Square, a visual mathematical tool for determining proportions. The square assists in figuring out the proper proportions of each wine needed in order to reach a desired outcome. This method can be used with every measurable part of winemaking. As with most experiments, it’s a good idea to have a goal for your blending. You may want to adjust color, residual sugar, bouquet, body or acidity, and you should have a general idea of how much you want to change these characteristics. This will give you a starting point for playing with your proportions.
Blend wines of a similar level, as blending a good wine with a bad one will only make the good one worse and won’t really help the bad one. Also, it’s best to mix wines of the same type and similar year. Dark red wines, such as merlot and cabernet, are best mixed together, as are light wines. Though mixing whites and reds is generally considered improper, blending light and dark fruit wines, such as apple and blackberry, can have delicious results. Mixing wines from different years tends to cause higher rates of precipitation and can be detrimental to the aging process of the older wine, giving it a youthful harshness.
Once you’ve figured out which wines you want to mix and in what proportions, do test blending in five or six small batches. As your palate may get a bit tired, invite some friends over for a blind tasting. Try to only sample a few blends at a time, as your palate will be a bit muddled after that. Take notes and measurements so you can duplicate a successful blend after the tasting is done, and if you’re starting to head in the right direction, you may want to be truly daring and thrown in a bit of a third wine.
Try not to swallow your sips, as obviously your judgment may eventually become clouded. Once you’ve made a decision on which blend you want to make in bulk, wait a day before finalizing plans. Retaste with a clean palate and perhaps slightly more sober point of view before you go full speed ahead on a new batch. You may also want to let the blend itself rest so the flavors can mix thoroughly and properly present the final flavor. Whites may give a stable blend right away, but reds may take a bit longer to reach their final flavor.
Of course, your most important concern will be the wine’s flavor, which is not so easily quantifiable. However, by discerning tasting, you can start to separate out the strong and weak points of a specific vintage. You’ll want to know what makes a particular wine distinctive and what could be improved upon. Before you add a second wine, you want to know exactly what you want the secondary vintage to add to the first, a process called complimenting. When one vintage compliments another, the secondary wine has fitting characteristic that should both bolster the strengths of the primary wine and dilute the weaknesses. Unfortunately, some wines just don’t tend blend well, particularly very delicate wines. You will probably have little real luck blending chardonnays, red zinfandels or pinot noirs.
These rules are only guidelines, so feel free to break them if you so desire. The worse thing that can happen is that you’ll come up with a mediocre wine, and have to go through the fun of blending and tasting all over again.