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If you're a wine lover you've probably come across the concept of blended wines and varietal wines. The questions usually asked are, "what does it mean?" and "does it matter?"
The term variety is used to describe a type of grape. A wine made from that grape is referred to as a varietal.
Referring to a single varietal means the name of the wine listed on the label. Although that wine may have up to 25% of another varietal or varietals, it is still considered a single varietal. A blend is a mixture of two or more wines blended together.
I'm not about to tire you with a wine-theory lesson, but make a note that the distinction between varietal and blended wines is less clear in practice. Many varietal wines are made from blends of wine grown in several regions. Some wines made from a single variety are blends of several different vintages, but this is quite rare for table wines.
Most fine wines are made from blending different grapes and different barrels of the same grape.
Modern blending may combine wines with diverse but complementary characteristics, and a good example can be the taste of two great red wines from different styles.
The other question is, does it matter? Well, if you find a wine that you enjoy and it's a blend, then you should continue to drink it. However, if you wish to extend your wine knowledge and extend your wine experience, you should try varietal wines whenever possible. There are dozens of varietal wines available, each with a special subtle difference waiting to be discovered.
Here are two recent releases of premium wines, crafted to high standards and priced accordingly.
Golan Heights Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon El-Rom 2003: Some wines you need to go the extra mile for; this is one of them.
The grapes for this Single Vineyard wine were picked from three different plots at the El-Rom vineyard in the Golan Heights. The vineyard planted between 1983 and 1985 is located at 1,100 meters above sea level and has the advantage of low temperatures - sometimes even snow in winter - and a lot of sunny days with dry wind in summer. The wine was aged for 18 months in French oak barrels which contributes to its richness and complexity. Dark red in color, this wine offers intense cassis, cherries and cocoa flavors with a delicious overlay of new oak. The tannins are firm, but very finely structured. Beautiful now, and should develop for the next eight years or so. NIS 160
Carmel Winery, Limited Edition 2004: This is the flagship wine of Carmel made as a blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Kayoumi and Zarit vineyards in Upper Galilee, 20% Petit Verdot from Binyamina, and 15% Merlot grapes harvested in the Judean Hills. Each lot was aged separately for 15 months in French oak barrels and the final blend was bottled unfined and coarsely filtered. Influenced by Bordelaise wine-making techniques this is an elegant wine that feels gentle and soft on entry then stuns with hidden power and depth. It is fully ripe with blackcurrant, cassis and exotic spices with a hint of eucalyptus towards the finish. Marked by firm tannins, it is generous now, yet should hold for a good six to eight years. NIS 180