The history of winemaking is a long one, with archaeological evidence of wine being made in 8000 BC. It is safe to say that these early wines would have been a blend of grape varietals grown together as an insurance policy with each offering some resistance to differing natural threats. This tactic secured the supply of wine and was part of the early steps to form the foundation of the nuanced wines we know today.
As winemaking has evolved, knowledge has grown exponentially creating a trusted body of expertise on how to grow and make wine. So, what is blending about in winemaking in this modern age?
Generally, there are two objectives to blending wine. The first is to create a consistent profile across vintage variations, this is most widely known in non-vintage Champagnes and Cap Classiques where each wine is known for a particular style and flavour profile. The second is when the winemaker wants to craft a more complete or complex wine where the sum is more than its parts.
Focusing on the second objective is an opportunity for winemakers to take key elements from individual varietals that complement and support a final harmonised wine. These elements range from flavour profiles to tannin and acid structures that add to the result.
For example, the Union is a Rhône-style blend led by Syrah with its fruit-forward nose and palate of blackberries and plums, while the floral and herbaceous notes are accentuated by Mourvèdre and finally supported by the extra acidity and tannin from Carignan. All these elements, and more, come together to create this handcrafted wine.
In blended single varietal wines, the objective is capturing terroir characteristics to create a complete wine. At Paserene the parcels of vines are across three different terroirs, Tulbagh (warm climate), Elgin (cool climate) and Franschhoek (moderate climate), which offers a wide selection of quality characteristics to blend into handcrafted wines. Paserene offers the Emerald, Dark and the Bright as examples of this skill of marrying terroir characteristics into elevated single varietal wines.
Martin Smith, Paserene’s winemaker, holds the philosophy of letting nothing go to waste, especially when such care is taken in growing and selecting the fruit. The unity of this philosophy and skill in blending wine is what supports handcrafted wines.