Blending Wine Like A Pro

Wine Ingredient KitI am making a Cab Sauvignon from the California Connoisseur wine kit. I also plan on making a Merlot next and would like to blend some of the two wines before bottling. I would like to save half of the Cab in a 3 gal carboy and bottle the other half. However, at what step in the process is it best to store the bulk Cab while I am making the Merlot? After Stabilization and Clarification?

Name: Darryl M.
State: Montana

Hello Darryl,

I’m so glad to get a question on blending wines. This is something I always love to talk about. It’s also something that I feel is greatly underutilized in home winemaking. Thanks for the great question.

You want to get the wine to the point of being ready to bottling before putting it in a carboy to be bulk aged. You want to get all the steps in the provided winemaking directions out of the way before leaving the wine to rest. That means making sure the wine is clear. I would also suggest that you add a dose of potassium metabisulfite to any wine that is going to go through a bulk aging of any kind.

One thing I would like to point out is that the Cabernet Sauvignon you made is not 100% Cabernet Sauvignon grape. Smaller amounts of other grapes are blended in as well, probably some Merlot grape. We don’t exactly, because the producer of this brand does not provide this information. The same will be true for the Merlot. This is no different than the Cabs and Merlots you buy commercially at the store. They have small amounts of other grapes blended with them to round out the character of the wine.

Because of this and because all small-batch wines tend to come out slightly different each time you make them, It is impossible to know ahead of time just how much of each wine you will want to use in a blending. Something like 3 gallons of one and 3 gallons of the other seems clear-cut and simple, but it may not be the optimal blend or ratio for your two wines. In fact, you may be making a wine that taste worse than each of the wines used to produce it. It is possible. With that being said, don’t assume a particular plan of action without basing it on some type of test-tasting first.

If I were in your shoes I would bulk age the entire 6 gallons of Cabernet Sauvignon. Once the Merlot wine is ready, then I would do blind taste-testings with an array of different blends/ratios of the two wines, by the glass. Have one person blend and the others taste without knowing what’s in each glass. Whatever blend is the most like is the blend you apply to the rest of the batches. Go through this step and you’ll be blending wine like a pro.

As a side note, this makes a great party event. Invite your friends and have them help determine the blend to use with blind tastings.

If you do not want to commit the entire 6 gallons, that’s okay. I understand. It’s hard to have 6 gallons of wine sitting around when you could be drinking on it, but to get the most ‘bang’ out of your blending efforts, this is how I would proceed.

There’s a great article on our website on blending wines that I would urge you to check out, Blending To Improve Homemade Wines. It goes into both the art and science of blending wine in much greater detail than I can go into here.

Hope this helps you out.
Happy Winemaking,
Ed Kraus
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Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

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