5 hearty red wine blends perfect for winter
A unified whole being more than the sum of its parts is an idea dating to the days of ancient Greek philosophers. Ideally each part brings qualities that complement and enhance the qualities of the other parts. The trick comes in skillfully selecting each part and then properly assembling all parts into the unified whole.
The concept holds true with red wine blends. Trial and error over thousands of years shows that certain grapes when blended properly can create delicious final wines that surpass wines made from single grape varieties.
One grape may add color and concentration to the mix, another might add freshness and a third may add texture and structure. Winemaking know-how and artistry come into play in blending each wine variety in the right proportion to create a harmonious whole. This is especially true with hearty, cold weather red wines that pair perfectly with rich stews and roasts.
Try the following tasty red blends:
The 2013 Campo Viejo, Rioja Reserva, Spain (9327; $14.99) blends tempranillo, garnacha and mazuelo grapes, Rioja’s traditional red wine trio. The region’s sunny days and cool nights provide optimal ripening. Mountains in northern Spain provide shelter to ensure a relatively dry climate which, in turn, helps shield the fruit from damaging maladies.
Blending the resulting grapes properly can create a seamless balance of ripeness and freshness. After fermentation in stainless steel tanks, this wine aged for 18 months in a combination of American and French-oak barrels of varying ages. The barrels impart spiciness, a Rioja red wine trademark. The wine’s ripe plum and berry fruit combine with freshness and spice to complement lamb stew brilliantly. Recommended.
Together, grenache, syrah and mourvèdre grapes represent the “holy trinity” of red wine blends. This trinity forms the foundation of classic Côtes du Rhône reds from southern France.
For a delicious example at a terrific price, try the 2017 Cellier des Chartreux, “Chevalier d’Anthelme” Côtes du Rhône, France (Luxury 76924; On sale: $11.99). The wine comes from a respected cooperative founded in 1929. Currently 60 winegrowers own the enterprise and tend grape vines growing in a stone-laden, dry plain near the Rhône River. The vines enjoy ideal growing conditions with plentiful sunshine and cooler nighttime temperatures.
The resulting wine offers charming aromas of black and red fruits along with black liquorice notes. Ripe fruity flavors balance with subtle pepperiness, superb freshness and fine tannins to complement good old-fashioned pot roast. Highly Recommended.
The 2016 Domaine de Fontsainte, Corbières, France (Luxury 74882; $14.99) offers a perennial favorite red blend at a great price. In this case, the wine blends mainly carignan with dollops of grenache and syrah. The wine’s saturated ruby color offers delightful dark fruit flavors with meaty notes. Refreshing acidity and soft tannins balance nicely through the fruity, but dry, finish. Pair it with roasted pork loin with a brown sauce with onions. Highly Recommended.
The 2016 Domaine Hegarty Chamans, “Open Now” Minervois, France (Luxury 74567; $19.99) delivers an easy-drinking, immediately appealing red blend. To maximize pure fruit and freshness, the domaine uses organic and biodynamic methods to grow mourvèdre and syrah grapes in chalk and limestone-rich soils found in certain subsections of the Minervois appellation.
The wine’s fermentation and aging occurred in neutral concrete tanks and large wooden barrels, again to emphasize forward fruitiness. Sipping this delightful wine delivers juicy, mouthwatering red raspberry fruit and enticing meaty notes. Superb fresh acidity and fine tannins hold it together beautifully with terrific energy. Pair it with braised short ribs. Recommended.
The Minervois wine appellation takes its name from the walled, medieval village of Minerve. The village’s beautiful stone buildings and church perch on a sheer limestone cliff over a dramatic river gorge. In a horrific historical note from 1210, members of the fiercely independent Cathar religious sect came to Minerve seeking refuge from persecution. Religious crusaders laid siege and, rather than convert to Catholicism, the Cathars went to their deaths burned at the stake. Today a memorial stands as a testament to their courage.
Switching to California the New World, the Central Coast’s Paso Robles region makes a fine laboratory for producing intriguing red blends. The terroir varies from relatively cooler temperatures and limestone rich vineyards near the Pacific Ocean to warmer temperatures and sandy vineyards further inland. The former soils deliver grapes with freshness and lean, well-structured flavors, while the latter vineyards provide grapes with dark fruit and concentration.
The 2015 Tablas Creek Vineyard, Pantelin de Tablas, Paso Robles, Calif. (Luxury 76685; $21.99) blends grenache, mourvèdre and counoise grapes grown near the ocean with syrah from the inland sites. The blend makes for a wine of terrific pleasure — ripe red fruit, superb freshness and elegant, soft tannins balance beautifully. Pair it with pasta with meaty Bolognese sauce. Recommended.
Dave DeSimone is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.