I described in an earlier post the first step in the process of creating our flagship wine - Wine X - a blend of the 5 classic grapes from Bordeaux. Continuing in that vein, below is a bit more about how the other grapes get incorporated into the Cabernet Sauvignon base.
Over the last several weeks, I systematically went through each lot of wine making notes regarding the aromatic and gustatory qualities of each barrel then assigning a grade and a possible disposition for each barrel. If it was of great enough quality, perhaps it might make the SVS (Single Vineyard Series) level or even the PCC (Premiere Cabernet Collection). And if it was truly special, it might be destined for Wine X level.
After tasting through 118 barrels of the five varieties, I narrowed down the contenders to just a couple per variety. On Friday, I siphoned 375ml samples of each of the varieties (if there were multiple contending barrels for a variety, part of each such barrel went into the sample). After making notes on the wines, including a sample of the base Cabernet Sauvignon I created in Step 1, I went about blending the five samples together.
I am looking for greatness in this wine. I am looking for a wine with power, elegance, complexity of aroma and flavor, and an over-arching structure that holds all the pieces together and that will allow for age. In short, Wine X is supposed to be the greatest red wine from Livermore.
The first sample I made was in the same percentages as in the first Wine X. Then I made samples on either side, a bit more Cabernet Sauvignon and a little less CS. With each blend, I am trying to home in on just that one wine that expresses all of the grapes - the rusticity and mid-palate heft of Malbec, the color and tannin of Petit Verdot, the wistful aromatics of Cabernet Franc and a hint of her acidity - but does so in a unified way.
Generally, I make a series of samples, 5-7 or so, and let them sit for a while before I taste them for the first time. You want to give the wines a chance to sort things out some before you attach an impression to early.
So far, the wine that made the most favorable impression, the one that has the most power, grace, and ageability, contained 80% CS, 10% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot, 3% Malbec, and 2% Merlot. This, of course, is not necessarily where the the final blend will reside.
Now that I have a firmer idea about the percentages, I go back to determine what those percentages mean in terms of needed gallons of each wine to make the number of cases I want to produce. When I know that, I will remake the blends with only the best barrel or two (depending upon the gallons needed) from each lot. I will remake a series of blends with different percentages of CS again and determine my favorite. Then the process gets really interesting... More in Step 3.