New Red Blends

That soft, sweet cousin everyone seems to love


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

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  • Snooth User: intellmkt
    1418066 30

    While there is nothing wrong with drinking 80 -85 point rated wines, one of the advantages of blending should be to improve the wine, not utilize "what's left on the shelf" after we've made our more serious wines. At this price point, few, if any, of these wines would be on my buy list for the casual and less educated wine drinker.

    Jan 09, 2014 at 2:58 PM

  • Snooth User: jamijares
    335894 20

    Is US the location of the majority of your readers?
    I wish you wouldn´t not emphazise so much US wines in your articles
    Nothing against them but they are more difficult to find them in my country than southamerican, european or even australian wines.
    Thank you

    Jan 09, 2014 at 4:32 PM

  • Snooth User: godspeed48
    1385216 22

    A really great blend to my liking is made by a winery called "Flirt" from Sonoma. This blend is Petite Sarah,Zinfandel,& Tamperillo. I really like the body and fullness in the mouth and like paring it with most pasta and red meat dishes, but most of all the price point is very attractive for less than $10.00!

    Jan 09, 2014 at 6:01 PM

  • Snooth User: lingprof
    Hand of Snooth
    155607 1,110

    Greg, would you include Bogle Phantom in this group? It's one that appeals to a lot of people across the spectrum. I like it, so I tried the Essential Red, but that one made me go Blecch! (On a side note: "the soft sweet cousin everyone seems to love" was hilarious! You are a naughty boy. Good thing xmas is over or you'd be getting coal for sure!)

    Jan 10, 2014 at 3:13 AM

  • The 2009 Berola is a fantastic buy for under $15.oo. The wide-body classic is from Spain. It's a blend that's 70% Grenache20% Syrah and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. It has a good balance with sugar on top, a bit of earth and heat with a touch of Cab to give it some hips. In fact it's been our top seller at our wine shop here in NYC. My only complaint is its alcohol level: 2 glasses do not drive. 3 glasses stay off the subways. 4 glasses do not leave your apartment. As for your other picks, I can only agree with the choice Bridle. All the rest: cotton candy.

    Jan 10, 2014 at 12:59 PM

  • Snooth User: Juancar
    1167110 64

    The best blends are not for USA ,mostly are from Europa,and you don't include one,why/they don't pay you so well like the american cellars?.

    Jan 14, 2014 at 9:55 PM

  • If you visit the Central Coast area, Onx ( located in the Templeton Gap area, makes excellent blends. My favorites are Praetorian and Mad Crush.

    Jan 17, 2014 at 11:25 AM

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