Wine Definitions

Malbec

is a black grape that makes for food-friendly wine. It is often described as inky with purple fruit flavors of black cherry, pomegranate, plum, blackberry, blueberry, and raisin. It has a serious side of coffee and molasses. When aged in oak, Malbec takes on the dessert flavors like vanilla, coconut, and mocha. It is often referred to as “plump.”


In the vineyard, Malbec does not luxuriate – in fertile, even-keeled climates, mold and rot dog its health. Coulure is ever a threat to the varietal, especially if the weather is cool during bloom or the vine is in high vigor – to which Malbec is prone. Malbec is a go-getter in the soil but sets fruit poorly.


Its climate forms its flavors: cooler climates produce brighter fruit tones and warmer climates draw out those purple fruits that can’t help but lure cocoa and chocolate to their magnetic tannins.


In Bordeaux and the Loire Valley, it is a minor varietal used for blending sparely with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc.


Malbec was brought to California’s Santa Clara Valley in the, but many vineyards were lost to phylloxera. Thanks to a broadened understanding of the importance site-appropriate clones play in winemaking; they have set down new roots in the state.


“Malbec” is synonymous with “Argentina.”

Malbec had been planted in Argentina before it was famously kicked out of Burgundy in the mid to late 20th century. Heartier vines replaced Malbec in Burgundy due to its unpredictable harvest and a number of remarkably diseased growing seasons. Other than the lustily rustic (but not widely distributed) Cahors, Malbec was a well-known grape only in the various regional pockets dedicated to growing it.


In the early-mid 1990s, Malbec from Argentina began to make its way onto the wine shop shelf. It immediately presented itself as an incredible deal for wine in its price-point. Having been given “junk” status by the industry, Malbec became the favorite of wine seller and wine buyer without a formal introduction.


Thanks to Argentina’s high, arid altitude and rocky soil, Malbec survived to make its way back to Bordeaux where it has revived its role in the Bordeaux Five – the five first growths of the region.


Stateside, look for Malbecs from Washington, Oregon and be sure to open the cellar doors to Chilean offerings out of Colchagua, Curicó, Cachapoal. Compare bottles from South Africa to those from South Australia and New Zealand’s Hawkes Bay – where Chardonnay greets the very first light of everyday.


More information can be found either in review text or on the producer’s Web site. You can use Wine Enthusiast’s online Buying Guide to find the top-rated Malbec wines among our extensive Malbec wine reviews and easy-to-use database. Our Malbec wine reviews will give you a general idea what to expect from wines made from Malbec and will help you find one that best suits your needs.


White Blend

Blending white wine grapes is a traditional winemaking practice that has produced venerated blends such as France’s Bordeaux Blanc and Italy’s Soave – trademark regional blended wines whose production is controlled by their respective DOG and DOCG.


A blended white wine made outside of the laws of an official label designation falls under the category of “White Blend.”


White Blend wine ranges in style and character depending on the region, grapes, and wine-making goals. Some are made after the traditional methods of the Old World, and others are terroir-driven.


White Blend wine that is made following a prescribed Old World style provides an excellent opportunity to compare the terroir of Old World wines to that of the expansive world outside of it. A Marsanne Rousanne blend from Washington State shows a volcanic minerality whereas a Marsanne Rousanne from its homeland in the Rhone Valley has whispers of wood spice and a memory of cinnabar.


South Africa’s bright and spicy take on a Bordeaux-style white (a blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc) offers a contrast to Italy’s blended wine made of the same grapes.


Chardonnay blends can be found worldwide and are often an indication of a wine region’s winemaking style as well as its terroir. A steely Chardonnay blend from New Zealand provides a sheer wall against to compare an oaked California blend of the same grapes.


Blends are most often made by combining mono-cépage wines of different varietals – each varietal being harvested, crushed, and fermented separately and then blended in trial batches. This process allows the winemaker the ability to showcase their intent and perspective.


Nontraditional terroir-driven blends are beginning to take up corners of real estate under the White Blend label designation – such as the effervescent and distinctive Chardonnay - Torrentes blends from Argentina.


White Blend wine introduces to the world obscure grape varietals that are only grown for blending purposes. In Croatia, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris are blended with Malvazija – a group of grape varieties– to create aged-citrus notes.

Many wineries have created their signature blend or label that, like a departmental designation, becomes a trademark of their label.

Assemblage information can be found either in the wine’s designation, review text, or on the producer’s Website. You can use Wine Enthusiast’s online Buying Guide to find the top-rated White Blends among our extensive White Blend wine reviews and easy-to-use database. Our White Blend reviews will give you a general idea of what to expect from wines made from White Blends and will help you find one that best suits your needs.


Red Blend

“Red blend” is a label designation for a blended red wine that contains less than 75% of any one grape varietal. Red blend wines can be made following well-loved traditional prescriptions – such as a Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot – but the category also contains an exciting breadth of unorthodox combinations. A blended red wine made outside of the laws of an official label designation falls under the category of “Red Blend.”


Wines under the red blend category vary in color, aroma, flavor, structure, and even age-ability. Red blends from cool climates tend to be lighter and brighter while those from warm climates tend to be bolder and darker. The varietals used, the region where they were grown, the season as well as vigneron and winemaker decisions all play an essential role in how a red blend will taste.


Winemakers blend red wines to complement and negate a grape’s attributes. For instance, the thick-skinned Cabernet Sauvignon lends tannins to the thin-skinned, plummy Merlot. Tannins – which can be as bitter and chalky as chewing on a grape seed – allow a wine to age and will over time soften, yielding to secondary and tertiary flavors.


Typically, red blends are created by crushing and fermenting each grape varietal as a mono-cepage. After the juice is extracted from the skins and put into lots, the blend is created through “blending trials” which requires the winemaker to taste the characteristics of each trial blend wine. A winemaker will sometimes add wine made from white grapes to provide a red blend wine to add additional nuances and balance.


What happens in the vineyard and its location is just as influential as the winemaker. Region dictates the flavor components of any given varietal. A classic blend of Syrah, Petite Verdot, and Merlot from Washington State will invariably have different tasting notes than those of the blend’s Cotes du Rhone roots – even if made by the same winemaker.


Region relents its importance to terroir. A blend of Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, and Mourvèdre from Gigondas stands apart from that of Chateauneuf du Pape – the distinction being a matter of 27 minutes and at least as many dollars.


These differences, sometimes subtle, sometimes remarkable are what makes the maddeningly broad category of red blend worthy of a deep, investigatory dive.


Another benefit to taking time to explore the wealth of selection under the “red blend” category is becoming acquainted with little-known, region-specific varietals. Borraçal (known by the equally eye-catching name of Caíño tinto) lends fragrance to red blend wines from Vino Verde. There are even exceptional regional field blend red wines such a Touriga Franca, Tinta Cao, and Tinta Roriz (aka Tempranillo) – a blend from the Douro, Portugal.


From the most notable red blend wines to intriguing new styles that illustrate New World terroir, the breadth of wines under the “red blend” is cause for celebration. For more detailed information on which red blend to choose for the cellar, a casual night in or to bring to a dinner party, Wine Enthusiast’s Buying Guide can help you. Find the best red blends from our extensive database. Our reviews will give you a general idea of what to expect from the bottle and help you find the one to best suit your needs.


Pinot Noir

Pinot noir is a noble red grape upon whose shoulders the world’s most prized vintages stand. In Burgundy, the varietal makes for cellar-bound bottles of a sensuously perfumed, complex wine. In Champagne, it’s gently pressed into a lithe-bodied juice that is blended with Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay.


Just pressed, the juice is a cheery ruby color. Young Pinot noirs sometimes show hues of red and violet. As the Pinot noir ages, its color loses intensity and even changes to a brick red hue – however, dusty bottles emerge from a 50-year cellaring with a vibrancy that does not betray the wine’s age.


The bouquet is often faceted with black currant, cherry, pepper, cinnamon, coffee, and smoke. In the mouth, the thin-skinned grape provides fine tannins, and the bright edges of the short-seasoned varietal are easily softened with a little age.


As the years go on, fresh fruit flavors roll into the territory of the venerable – jam and kirsch. Sought-after notes of truffle and bolete take hold, and it isn’t surprising for older bottles to produce a spank of leather and a brush of fur.


The varietal has been putting humankind through its winemaking paces for over 2,000 years. In both the field and the cellar, Pinot noir demands attention. Genetically irascible, the varietal enthusiastically mutates. Pinot noir’s mutations are the most cataloged of the vinifera grapes. This unstoppable ability to genetically shift directly benefits both winemaker and the grape’s legacy.


Infamously prone to root rot, fungus, and mold, its vast variety of clones offers a breadth of disease and blight-resistant genetics. Growers select clones for resistance to a specific vineyard peril or the site’s soil, microclimate, and acreage.


Different clones grown in the same vineyard will vary in flavor, color, yield size, and cluster density. This variety works to the advantage of the winemaker, and it is not uncommon for winemakers to create an assemblage using wines from a number of Pinot noir clones to play off each other’s characteristics.


Where once all Pinot noirs were judged by the Burgundian ideal, it is now accepted that Pinot noir is its own grape in its own land. A tour of Pinot noirs from different regions is a tour of terroir – be it established or emerging.


Oregon Pinot noir wines are most reflective of their Burgundian roots. In Germany, where it reigns under the name of Spätburgunder, wine made from German Mariafeld clones is known for being red, herbaceous, and bright. In New Zealand, Dijon clones grown away from the coast are dark with a rumble of berry.


In the sandy clay and decomposed granite of Chile, warm nights and cool mornings make Dijon clones disastrously miserable. Yet the full canopied clones 9 and 16 ( the same clones that are grown in California) promise stony black cherry notes that translate oak with purple-red finesse.


Are you looking for a Pinot noir to remember or a rosé structured like no other? Use Wine Enthusiast’s online Buying Guide to find the top-rated Pinot noir wines among our extensive Pinot noir wine reviews and easy-to-use database. Our wine reviews will give you a general idea of what to expect from wines made from Pinot noir and will help you find one that best suits your needs.