Masi and E&J Gallo red blends cover dry to fruity styles

The biggest category for this year’s InterVin International Wine Awards competition is red blends,...

The biggest category for this year’s InterVin International Wine Awards competition is red blends, which is to say wines that are made of a combination of different grapes.(Supplied).

Christopher Waters, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:38 AM ET

The biggest category for this year’s InterVin International Wine Awards competition is red blends, which is to say wines that are made of a combination of different grapes.

They could be classic combinations such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot or more fanciful and modern concoctions of Syrah, Zinfandel and other international varieties. The category could house blends of two grapes or 13 -- possibly more.

The 2013 class includes nearly 200 red blend submissions of the total 1,300 or so entries, which will be evaluated this week by panels of wine experts who will look at selections grouped by style or grape variety as well as alcohol level and sweetness. As the competition’s head judge, it’s my task to assemble the flights — that’s wine jargon for a selection of wine presented for tasting. The toughest grouping was making sense of the various and sundry blends.

The traditional ones were easy enough to sort. Classic Cabernet Merlot or Meritage style wines that take their inspiration from Bordeaux or Tempranillo-based blends pioneered in the Rioja region of Spain fell into place quickly. Cutting edge producers who assemble dramatic or soft, fruity wines as the case may be from seemingly every grape available to them offered more of a challenge.

But the biggest consideration for me was looking at the range of alcohol and sweetness levels across the various submissions. Some wines, often ones hailing from Europe, would be much lower in alcohol and considerably drier than others. So-called dry wines -- another case of wine jargon -- have had all of the grape's natural sugars converted to alcohol. Some residual sugar remains in sweet wines, which range from slightly off-dry styles through to luscious, honeyed dessert wines. The effect of that sweetness and the wine's acidity levels help to determine how we interpret how they taste.

This week's wine selections are red blends that illustrate the different extremes. The Italian wine made by Masi is a rich, full-bodied red that represents the dry side of the scale. The other selection is a soft textured, fruity red made in California that lends somewhere towards the midrange of the sweetness scale; two very different styles that would be assessed in different flights of the InterVin red blends category. Each could standout for its own merits, while sharing little common ground outside of the winemaker's art of combining wine made from different grapes to create a desired final result that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Wines of the Week:

***1/2 Masi Agricola 2009 Campoflorin Veneto, Italy, BC $19.99 (155051) | AB $23 | MB $19.99 (155051) | ON $18.95

Masi has made Campoflorin since 1964, when it launched a new style of winemaking that saw young fruity red wine given a flavour boast by re-fermenting it with partially dried grapes. Other producers label their versions ripasso or ripassa. The result is a dry red wine with a robust character. The savoury and smoky notes deserve pairing with a hearty meal, grilled or roast red meat or meat or mushroom pastas.

*** E & J Gallo 2011 Apothic Winemakers’ Blend Red California, United States, BC $16.99 (125617) | AB $xx | MB $14.99 (739242) | ON $15.95 (234369)

An innovative blend of Syrah, Zinfandel, Merlot and Cabernet, Apothic has been fine-tuned to deliver ripe fruit flavour that’s jazzed up with luscious vanilla and spice notes. It’s juicy, jammy wine with a sweeter, softer texture that gives it mass appeal.

 


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