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White Blends - Experience the Pleasures
Copyright 2003 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved. Originally printed August 5, 2003. For more information go to

Most wine lovers don't think twice about enjoying a red wine that's made from a blend of grape varieties. We're used to the idea of Bordeaux being made from a winemaker's-choice recipe involving mysterious amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and more. Chianti doesn't surprise us with its mix of Sangiovese and other Italian grapes. Australian and California cocktails of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre (GSM) have their own appeal, and even the wacky blend of as many as 13 different grapes in Chateauneuf-du-Pape tends to tickle our palates.

For some reason, though, white blends don't spring so readily to mind. Give us a 100 percent Chardonnay, a Chenin Blanc, a Sauvignon Blanc or a Riesling when we're in the mood for a white, and most of us are happy.

But sometimes it makes sense to blend white varieties, and for the same reasons; often each partner in a mix can contribute an element that would be missing from a single-varietal wine, creating a whole that's worth more than the sum of its parts.

White Bordeaux is a classic example, a historic blend (just like its red sibling) that brings together disparate ingredients just as a cook fashions a recipe - some Sauvignon Blanc to give leanness and acidity and a racy character, a ration of Semillon to provide body and texture, and a dash of floral Muscadelle to add intrigue to the aroma.

And so it goes, around the world of wine. Soave, from the Veneto region in Northeastern Italy, is made predominantly from the regional Garganega grape, but it gains weight and complexity with up to 30 percent of Trebbiano, Pinot Bianco or even, thanks to a modern liberalization of the wine laws, Chardonnay.

Australian producers have been blending Semillon and Chardonnay for generations to create a rich wine with more texture and character than either might provide alone. And in the U.S., although most producers have been slower to tackle blends, you'll see an occasional intriguing mixture, from the deliciously off-dry Caymus Conundrum to a wild assortment of whites that add a dash of Viognier to bring luscious floral character to a more humdrum companion.

We're taking on the topic of white varietal blends in this month's edition of Wine Tasting 101, our free online forum in which participants learn wine by tasting assigned wines and comparing notes with fellow wine lovers in an interactive group. You're invited to take part. To begin, all you have to do is visit Wine Lover's Forum Page.


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