In the U.S., we have come to know our wines by the varieties they were made from. California Cabernet Sauvignon, New York Riesling, Oregon Pinot Noir. But in the red category, there is a trend that has been building for the past decade and emerging as something new and exciting: the red blend.
The term may seem a bit general. What blend? What grapes? What are the rules? There are none. The term is general for a reason. It allows winemakers to explore without being tied to regulations. It also calls back to a time when our wine culture was in its infancy.
This category ranges from good, weeknight wines, to more expensive, special-occasion bottles. The styles vary, but many of the affordable options are not about complexity, but cohesiveness — seamlessly serving as social lubricant among guests nibbling on crudités or over a table of comfort food. As the price rises, layers begin to emerge around the edges, but even these wines are more about the collective depth of the blend.
And now that this trend has settled in and taken hold, we are seeing red blends from around the world hit our shelves, all celebrating the freedom of a blank blending canvas and offering some great worldly weeknight options.
This category is moving fast. So for now, here are 12 bottles that will give you a nice range of what’s available from the U.S. and abroad.
Primus The Blend ($18)
Chile is all about valleys. Between coastal ranges and the mighty Andes, vines have flourished in Chilean valleys since the 16th century. This is a blend from three of them: Central, Rapel, and Colchagua. It has all the depth and soft fruit you’re looking for, with a nice tannic edge and some peppery notes for good measure.
Ace Kicker ‘Big Bet’ Blend ($14)
If this wine’s title doesn’t sell you (get it?), the juice will. It has six grapes blended into it, none of which are Cab or Merlot. It’s a big blend with a soft approach. The palate is nice and even with some chewy fruit. The Spanish have a knack for making wine with power and plush.
Sean Minor ‘Nicole Marie’ ($20)
Big ol’ Cali red blends are plentiful on the market, so it’s nice to know which ones are hands-down legit. This bottle has the sun-soaked, deep red fruit we’ve come to love from California with the framed structure of the North Coast. You’ll enjoy said depth with medium acidity balancing the high-alcohol presence.
Hound’s Tree Cornus Reserve ($50)
Long Island is coming through with its own style of the red blend. It’s more elegant than most, with a solid structure and a wonderful focus on the mid-palate. This means that the acidity is bright enough that your palate can feel the fruit being held together. It makes for a deep but lively wine experience.
Dueling Pistols Cellars ($44)
Welcome to Paso Robles, where the red wines have the heft of a mountain range and the lift of ocean fog. This is a satisfying red blend that smells like plums and cherries rolled in fertile soil. The acidity comes in and breaks up the deep fruit core, raising the aromas and not letting the wine weigh you down.
Chateau Ste. Michelle Indian Wells Red Blend ($16)
When you first stick your nose in a glass of this blend, you’ll smell an earthy, plummy wine. It has great acidity and is actually meaty with a nice, calm tannin structure chillin’ around the edges. This wine (with a slight chill) pairs perfectly with a big ol’ juicy quarter pounder dripping with a mustard-ketchup swirl and melted cheddar.
Intrinsic Red Blend ($21)
I’m gonna say it: This might be one of my fave red blends on the market. It has everything. It smells like cherries and vanilla but is balanced by wonderful, bright acidity, and it still retains a nice medium depth. You can drink this chilled or at room temperature. Talk about a crowd-pleaser.
Chakana Estate Selection Red Blend ($22)
The Argentinian red blend game is strong. Grown in the high desert with cool nights and tons of sun, this is a great example of a balanced blend. It has a nice concentration of fruit and an earthy vibe emanating from good acidity.
Lioco Indica ($23)
Right on, man. Many wonderful things grow in Mendocino, and the grape vine is one of them. The cool air of Mendocino retains the bright nature of this wine while the plentiful Cali sun brings the savory concentration of fruit. It smells of herbs, blue and black fruit, and funky cola. This wine is heady and contemplative just like its name.
Barnard Griffin Rob’s Red Blend ($13)
Washington State seems to have been running with the red blend idea while everyone else was figuring it out. This wine is one hell of a deal. It’s oaky with smells of vanilla and wood, yet with the active acidity and smooth tannins, it all weaves together as a seamless pizza night.
Mezzacorona ‘Dinotte’ Red Blend ($10)
Enter Italy, stage right. The red blend trend has reached the boot, and they are showing us what they can do. And it’s cheap and delicious. This wine from the Dolomites shows how mountain fruit can be bright and concentrated. It has a moderate core of fruit, with wonderful acidity holding the wine in place as you sip with pork chops on a weeknight.
Jax Vineyards Y3 ‘Taureau’ ($22)
Here’s another legit Cali red blend. This one is from Napa Valley, south of the North Coast, and has that rich, sun-soaked-valley concentration of fruit. It smells like blackberries and soil and is grippy on the palate with some tannins around the edges. This is a good weeknight wine to pair with skirt steak flavored only by the char.