¿Just starting out in the world of wine? Then you may have come across denominations such as "varietal wines" and "assemblage" more than once when exploring new wines to try. In this article we explain the difference between the two categories and their main differences, so that you will never hesitate again when choosing your next wine.
Varietal wines are those wines made from just one single grape variety. Examples include red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Pinot Noir, and white wines like Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
In the United States, for example, a wine usually must have at least 75% of one grape to be considered a varietal, while in Europe and Latin America, this percentage rises to 85 in the majority of cases.
Blends are, as their name suggests, a combination of two or more grape varieties, often with one variety dominating with 40–50% of the blend, when comprised of more than two varieties (some wines can have up to 10). A blend is made in order to maximize the expression of a wine, increasing the aromas, color, texture, or body, creating a wine that is more balanced and complex.
For example, if a wine is lacking on the nose (aromas), a winemaker might add a small percentage of another variety that lends a particular character to the wine, therefore creating a new, more interesting wine. These wines are also strongly influenced by the winemaking process: some may be aged in oak barrels, foudres, concrete eggs, or different kinds of recipients, or the grapes may be picked at different stages of ripening.
Differences between Varietals and Blends
So, what is the difference in flavor offered by a varietal or blend? In general, a blend will be less intense than a varietal wine. An intense Cabernet Sauvignon, for example, may be blended with a hint of Merlot to smooth it out. Many winemakers use these practices to combine grapes from different regions. You can find blends made from many different varieties or regions, or a combination of both.