One of the hottest segments of the market in 2013 were so-called Red Blends. These often slightly sweet wines capitalized on the marketplace’s growing comfort with wines that are decidedly fruit forward, while avoiding cannibalizing the image of producer’s varietal wines. By going the blended route with these wines producers have been able to create a new market segment while ensuring some continuity for themselves. Continuity in both style and price.
While many of these wines tend to be noticeably sweet, one can still find wines that are both affordable and dry at the $10 to $15 price point that seems to be the niche for these wines. One refreshing surprise among this small set of wines was the the Biltmore Century Blend from North Carolina which, while being a touch on the sweet side, retains the vinosity, or winyness that I look for in my wines. It’s a wine well suited to drinking with foods that may be a touch sweet, think BBQ with sauce or some Asian dishes for example.
These are popular wines for a reason. Easy to drink and understand, not to mention well priced. I expect we’ll be seeing more of them in our future. They are decidedly not to everyone’s taste but do find a broad audience and help to introduce folks to the joys of wine and for that we should be happy. Much like the much maligned White Zinfandel craze of the last century, the marketplace has responded to demand and created a new gateway wine for the masses. Will they move on to drier wines? Only time will tell but if that last craze was any indication, we should expect a bigger audience for the wines we love in the coming years!
Light and fresh on the nose with nuanced oak notes and some gentle warm cherry fruit framed by lovely dried herb, coffee bean, and tobacco aromas. Light and fresh on entry, then this turns a bit sweet and fruit with lots of fresh red cherry and red currant fruit. The tannins are very fine and the acidity is integrated but firm lending the fruit a nice tart edge. This is very red fruited and warm climate toned with a little heat and spice on the moderately long finish. Just a smidgen too much sugar for me, this should prove to be very popular and even with the sweetness I can see drinking this. 85pts
Rather herbal on the nose and attractively so with black currant and tomato aromas framed by notes of earth and old wood. A little gassy at first, then this turns smooth and supple in the mouth with light black currant and black cherry fruit along with a nice touch of earthy and dried herb. This is unremarkable but it is real wine. A little dull perhaps but it finishes with fine dry tannins and a nice linger earthy/old barrel savoriness. A good wine for a BBQ. 83pts
A bit tight on the nose though with underlying jammy fruit and some perfumy oak top notes. Sweet and plump on entry with nice blackberry fruit on the palate. This is supple, round and fresh with enough acid to help highlight some of the red fruit, cranberry notes on the midpalatal. there’s some coconutty oak on the palate along with a little lead pencil that leads to the simple, fruity finish. Pretty good in the style with lots of plummy and spicy berry fruit on the palate, soft tannins, and enough acid to keep the finish clean. 83pts
Deep and candied on the nose with lots of caramel, toasted oak, and black fruit with floral and peppery spice notes framing a meaty core. Big and round in the mouth with early notes of meaty fruit, sweet vanilla and black plums on the palate that pick up a little light coffee cream, caramel and a little peppery spice on the backend before fading on the soft, moderately long and slightly sweet finish. There are some firm little tannins here that appear on the finish as well. Big and gangly but I see the appeal. 83pts
Spicy and moderately oaky on the nose which shows some nice floral accents and some sun dried tomato character along with hints of thyme and cigar box. Low acid and sweet in the mouth, though nicely fruity with some fairly pronounced spicy accents helping to frame the core of fresh plum and blackberry fruit. The spiciness builds on the backend where this gains some black raspberry tones that lead to a somewhat short and raw finish, though in truth the fruit does stick around thanks to the sugar here. Easy to drink and fruity with a mouth filling texture. 82pts
Very fruity on the nose with jammy blackberry and bramble aromas that reveal plenty of Zinfandel in the blend with some black plummy fruit and a bit of black, licorice spice all covered with rather smoky, toasty raw oak. Moderately big on entry with a slightly chewy mouthfeel and flavors that are bold in their intensity but rather matte on the palate with a cold coffee quality that envelops the palate along with dark plummy and bitter chocolate fruit. The finish is rather raw, with scratchy tannins and some toasted almond notes and more brewed coffee character. A bit soft in the mouth, and a touch sweet, this is big and boring. 80pts