Friday, January 15, 2010

Blending, demystified.

The creation of bottled wine is a seemingly never ending process. While we at Vellum Wine Craft believe that the best wine requires a hands off approach letting the wine "become itself"; there are circumstances where we invariably have to manipulate what ends up in the bottle.

The art of blending or assemblage is such a task. We have a collection of separate lots of wine with their own virtues but we need to combine them in the right proportion to achieve the signature in bottle that best represents the current vintage of VELLUM. At many wineries, blending is a secretive, pedantic and wasteful recourse. Winemakers can spend weeks doing this and oftentimes they get nowhere- but drunk!

Well, I have nothing to hide and fortunately I have learned from many of their mistakes, if only so Jeff and I can get on with enjoying our creation!

Each harvest, we begin the "assemblage" in the vineyard by selecting the fruit for the flavor, composition and tonnage we will require a year and a half later in the bottle. Now, I don't have a crystal ball however yesterday, my own father asked me, "How much of it is luck?". I suppose he wanted to know if I was hitting a hot streak these past years? My answer to that was most emphatically no - we create luck!

Jeff and I are meticulous planners and we effectively optimize our resources. So, in a way we can "see into the future"!

This past week we put together our 2008 blend for the first time and there were no surprises. Consequently, I was reminded of what Thomas Jefferson learned in during his travels in France - that you can't make a good wine better by adding a bad one to it. In other words, winemaking is not alchemy and as I recall; you still can't make gold from lead! So, we had in front of us four solid wines and I knew fourteen months back what to expect when the fermentations finished. They could stand alone but "as predicted" - they needed each other.

Each lot of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot bring their own merits in the fold. None diminish the other and best of all nothing goes to waste. The end result, is a wine that is remarkably full, balanced and similar to the 2007 VELLUM that many of you have come to know and love. If you have any of it resting in your cellar, I urge you to revisit it and get a glimpse of what's to come with the 2008 release this year! Perhaps then, you may see that mystery behind the "art of blending" is really the practice of good planning!

- Karl Lehmann


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