Rebecca's Article: Giving Consumers Blending Control

March 3rd, 2014

Auckland’s CBD played host to a pop-up winemaking experience in recent weeks. Blend was a Jacob’s Creek-inspired event, inviting the public to blend their own white or red, and take it home.

1,600 people assembled their own wines before it packed up and headed to Sydney. If it’s deemed a success, other cities will get an opportunity to try their hand at blending. “The plan is to move this around [the world],” said Jacob’s Creek chief winemaker Bernard Hickin.

One of the most interesting outcomes of the trial will be the retail launch of two New Zealand-specific blends, created by collating the results from the event. At the launch, head of Pernod Ricard NZ, Fabian Partigliani, explained, “This is a pop-up winemaking experience: You can blend your own wine then we are going to collect the information and find out here in New Zealand what we like compared to the rest of the world and launch two wines – a red and a white.”

There’s no rosé option. The red and white bottling lines specifically designed for this project are kept separately. The bottles are sealed with nitrogen and a screw cap while your name is printed on the back label of the bottle.

Inevitably, the blending components were limited: four white varietals and four red varietals were on offer and some classic blending partners weren’t available. In the whites, you could pick from chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, moscato and pinot grigio, which tend to be bottled as varietals – they aren’t traditionally viewed as natural blending partners. In the red corner, there was cabernet and merlot, shiraz and grenache.

I was hoping to do a southern Rhone-inspired blend. My first attempt: 50/50 grenache shiraz turned out to be a fruit bomb with no structure. I would have liked to put some mourvedre or carignan in to add a bit of structure but the only reasonably tannic options were merlot and cabernet, which had a distinctly Australian minty edge to them that I didn’t want in the blend. Alas, the world isn’t perfect. Final blend: 60 percent shiraz, 30 percent grenache and 10 percent cab. The wine ain’t going to win any awards but you go away with a bottle you had a hand in for $20.

I’d give my wine a five out of 10 but for consumer experience, it’s a winning 8.5/10. It's an opportunity to play winemaker and better understand what you like but I think I'll leave the real process to the professionals.

For more information, visit the Blend website.

Rebecca Gibb is editor at Wine Searcher and lives in Auckland, a long way from her original home of northeast England. She recently passed the theory and practical parts of the Master of Wine exams and is now working on her dissertation.


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