By Cristal Guiet on June 3rd, 2023

We all have our favorite wine or wines. Some of them may be a single varietal whilst other ones may be composed of a blend of different grape varieties.

But how can you distinguish the difference between the two?

Depending on where your wine originates from, there may be information on the label that will provide details about the different grapes in the wine.

New-world winemakers are much more transparent when it comes to listing the grape(s) in their wines on the label. The old world does not require that grape varieties are listed on the label.

The old-world appellation system dictates what grapes can be put into a blend and it is only if you have an in-depth knowledge of wines from different old-world regions that you will know what grape(s) are in the wine.

Let us spend some time demystifying what a blended wine is and also learn about some of the most famous wine blends around the world.

What are blended wines?

A blended wine is made from two or more different grape varietals that are either of the same color or different colors depending on the type of blend that is being made.

Winemakers choose to blend wines to improve the complexity and flavor of wine as well as maintain consistency in the style of wines that they produce.

This type of blending is commonly practiced by many of the famous Champagne Houses to ensure that the characteristics of their wines remain constant from year to year.

Winemakers around the world both old and new are becoming more creative as they push the limits and are continually experimenting with new blends often using grape varieties that traditionally are not combined.

These blending innovations have resulted in some very exciting wines.

There are two ways that wine can be made. Either the winemaker makes the wine using a single varietal (such as Chardonnay) or blends different grapes together to make a “blend”.

There are two different types of blends:

Vintage blends - if a wine is a vintage blend then the grapes that are used in the blend must all come from the same vintage.

These blends can be made from two or more grape varieties and depending on where in the world the wine is made, there may be strict or no rules to follow at all.

Non-Vintage blends - Champagne and Port are some of the most famous non-vintage blends that are made on the planet.

The winemaker blends grapes (known as reserve wine - a wine that is held back and stored from a vintage instead of being bottled and sold) from different vintages to achieve the maximum balance of tannins, flavors, and other characteristics to create the best expression of the wine possible.

There is no limit to the number of vintages that can be blended into a wine. The Champagne House Krug is a perfect example, their Grande Cuvée can be made from as many 120+ different reserve wines that span over several different vintages.

Non-vintage (NV) wines do not have a year of production printed on the label.

Though Champagne and Port are the most common wines that are blended from several different vintages, there are some winemakers that also experiment and blend different vintages together when making still wines.

In most of the new and old world, there are no restrictions on what a wine blend can be made of.

There are however some very famous blends that come from the old world and have been copied in the new world but are labeled under a different name.

Famous wine blends

Red Bordeaux - There are specific grapes that are allowed in a red Bordeaux blend which are:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Merlot
  • Malbec
  • Petit Verdot
  • Carmenère
  • Cabernet Franc


These grapes can be used in any proportion in the blend but as a rule, at least two grape varieties are used, it is rare that all six varieties will be used.

Bordeaux is famous for its blends and produces some of the most expensive blended wines in the world.

The red Bordeaux blend is used around the world by many different winemakers.

In California, the Bordeaux Blend is called Meritage (a combination of the words Merit and Heritage- pronounced like the latter).

There are certain criteria that must be adhered to:

  • In order to use the name Meritage on the wine label, a winery must meet the approval guidelines by the Meritage Association, (now called the Meritage Alliance) which was founded in 1988 to promote the noble traditional grape varieties that are found in Bordeaux.

  • The wine must be one of the top-end wines that are produced by the winery.

  • Less than 25,000 cases may be produced in a single vintage.

  • The same style and grape varietals that are used in the Bordeaux Blend are required to make a Meritage wine.


White Bordeaux - Though less famous than the Red Bordeaux blend, the production of Bordeaux white wines (the birthplace of Sauvignon Blanc) which ranges from dry crisp whites to sweet luscious dessert wines (Sauternes - such as the famous Château Y’quem) that command very high prices.

To meet appellation rules, a White Bordeaux Blend can only be made from the following grape varieties:

  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Sémillon
  • Muscadelle
  • Sauvignon Gris
  • Colombard
  • Ugni Blanc


As in the blending process of red Bordeaux wines, it is very common that white Bordeaux wines will be made only with a blend of two grapes, which is most commonly Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon.

Rhône Blends - There are several famous Rhône blends. Some are a combination of both red and white grapes.

Côte-Rôtie - though not required to meet the appellation requirements - Côte-Rôtie can be a single varietal of 100% Syrah, or there is the option to blend two varieties - Syrah and up to 20% Viognier (a white grape) together.

It is believed that by fermenting these two grape varieties together that the color, tannins, texture, ripeness, and aromatics are better preserved when the wine is aged.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape - is one of the blends that can have up to 15 different grape varieties in one wine! Though it is rare that all of the varieties will be used in the blend, there is a handful of wineries that do use all of the grapes such as the famous Château de Beaucastel.

GSM - Grenache Syrah Mourvèdre (other grapes can be added to this blend) - this iconic blend from the Rhône Valley is used around the world and creates red wines that are full-bodied that often display soft silky tannins and rich dark red fruit aromas.

Champagne Blend - Blended Champagnes are often made from both red and white grapes:

  • Chardonnay
  • Pinot Noir
  • Pinot Meunier
  • Petit Meslier
  • Arbane
  • Pinot Blanc
  • Pinot Gris

Champagne blends (over 99% of vines planted in the region) are made using Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier.

These grapes are most commonly used as it was determined that these three varieties are the most suited for the production of good Champagne.

The other four varieties make up less than 1% of the grapes grown in the Champagne region and are only grudgingly permitted because they were already growing in the region before the appellation rules were created.

Sadly these vines are on the path towards extinction as once the current vines die out, the appellation rules will not permit them to be replanted.

A very small minority of Champagne makers use these grapes as the principal part of their blends.

The labeling rules do not require the grapes to be listed, therefore most of the time, these varieties are literally lost in the blend.

Super Tuscans - Like many other old-world wine-producing countries, Italy has very strict rules when it comes to grape blending in order to adhere to the Denominazione di Origine Controlla e Garantita or DOCG rules.

In the 1970s some of the Italian winemakers in the Tuscany region decided to break away from the archaic rules and decided to create a new style of wine that was blended from a variety of different grape varieties that were not traditionally allowed under the appellation rules for the region:

  • Petit Verdot
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Sangiovese
  • Merlot
  • Cabernet Franc

Over time Super Tuscans have become famous worldwide. Unfortunately, when these winemaking “rebels” started making their new blends, their wines were demoted to the lowest class possible of “table wine” as the wines did not conform to the DOCG regulations that were in place.

Undeterred, they continued making their blends. Their persistence eventually paid off and the wines finally received their own designation Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT).

There is a wide spectrum of quality levels in these wines and some are still at the “table wine” level whilst others are as good as some of the finest DOCGs made.

The choice is yours, should you choose a blended or single-varietal wine?

One style is not better than the other. As with any wine choice, it is strictly personal and depends on the palate of the drinker.

If you are more of a single-varietal type of drinker, why not expand your horizons and explore some of the blended wines that are currently available on the market?

As always, the first port of call is your local wine professional who will be extremely happy to either recommend some local Texan blends or something from further abroad if you desire.

There is an unending variety of blended wines in different styles to explore and this can be a great way to expose your palate to some new “pleasures” as you continue forward on your exciting wine journey.


Author: Cristal Guiet

Cristal has more than twenty three years of experience in the wine industry. In addition to creating wine lists in Michelin three-star restaurants, working with prestigious London wine merchants, and starting her own wine tourism company in France, Cristal has been writing about wine for over fifteen years. She holds the Advanced degree from Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), and resides in London.

Beyond Single Varietals, Classic Wine Blends that you should know

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