If you're a wine lover, the terms "blend" and "single varietal" are certainly not unfamiliar to you. They both refer to a producer's choice for the composition of their wines. But do you know the main differences between them?

In this article we'll show you some of the particularities of these two different forms of production, so that you can gain a more informed understanding of the style and intention of each proposal and decide which is your favourite.

Blends and single varietals: the origin of this distinction

For many centuries in the history of winemaking, most people had no idea what types of grapes were used in the wines they consumed. Producers rarely identified the grape varieties from which each wine originated on their products, generally choosing to designate only the name of the DOC (Denominations of Controlled Origin) regions, along with the name of the estate.
It was mainly from the mid-20th century onwards that New World producers - especially those in the United States - began to indicate on their labels the grape varieties they were made from. This phenomenon arose as a marketing strategy, aimed at showing consumers that the wines were made from traditional and famous European grape varieties, helping to position the style of the wine in question.

This is when grape varieties such as Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon or Sauvignon Blanc see their fame grow on labels all over the world. Since then, many consumers have begun to identify with the style of a particular grape variety and to value the presentation of this information by producers. It is in this context that the distinction between blended wines and single varietal wines began to gain weight in the market.

Single varietal wines: what are they?

As the name suggests, monovarietal wines are wines made exclusively from a single grape variety and which seek to emphasise the personality and unique characteristics of the grape variety in question.
However, it's common to see wines on the market that don't have 100 per cent grapes from the same variety, but have a predominant variety, which is mentioned on the label. These are called varietal wines.
To be considered varietal, a wine must have a minimum percentage of grapes in its composition in order to be able to display the name of a single grape variety on the label. This mandatory percentage is defined by the legislation of each country and region.
By way of example, the regulations for the Douro region state that a wine can be classified as varietal if it contains at least 85 per cent of the predominant grape variety mentioned on the label.
In general, varietal wines are allowed to contain a small percentage of other grapes, in order to give the winemaker some freedom to "complete" the wine with other varieties if necessary. This residual complement of grape varieties is often used to give the wine more acidity or to give it more structure and body.

Blend wines: what are they?

Blend is the English word for "mixture". This term is then used to identify wines that are produced from the combination of two or more different grape varieties, each with its own personality.
This blend of grapes can be made right in the vineyard - the so-called field blends, which are very common in old vineyards - or later in the winery. In this case, during the vinification process, the winemaker can choose to make a blend of grapes that will ferment together or, alternatively, have different fermentations of various varieties, which can then be blended after fermentation or only after the ageing period.
In all these situations, it's up to the winemaker, based on their vision and the style of wine they want to make,
choose the proportions of each grape variety they want to use, trying to balance acidity, body, tannins and aromas until they achieve the desired result.
Also known as blended wines, there are those who argue that blends are a conciliatory choice for bringing people with different preferences for the grape varieties of choice together around the same bottle.

Blends and varietals: discover the main differences

Apart from the number of grape varieties used in their composition, there are other elements that help distinguish these two types of wine:

Aromatic and flavour characteristics

> Varietals: tend to bring out the distinctive characteristics of the predominant grape. This allows consumers to easily identify the aromatic profile and flavour associated with a specific grape variety.

> Blends: generally offer a wider range of aromas and flavours, the result of combining the characteristics of the different grape varieties used. They often result in more complex and balanced wines.

Consistency and Terroir

> Varietals: these can more directly reflect the specific characteristics of the terroir where the grapes were grown, as the influence of climate, soil and altitude on a single variety becomes more evident. From year to year, the variations in the different vintages can be noticeable.

> Blends: these make it possible to minimise the variations between vintages, providing greater consistency over time. Combining different grape varieties can help to compensate for certain characteristics that differ in different years.

Opportunities for producers

> Varietals: by emphasising the distinctive profile of a particular grape variety, these wines give the producer the chance to explore variations of that profile in different vintages.
> Blends: give the producer greater flexibility and creative power, giving them the opportunity to experiment and adjust the combination of various grape varieties in order to achieve distinct flavour and style results.

Origin and tradition

> Varietals: in some regions, the tradition of producing varietal wines is more common, especially in areas where rich grape varieties predominate, which work very well on their own.
> Blends: other regions produce blended wines, particularly in areas with a greater diversity of grape varieties, which have the potential to complement each other.

Blends or varietals: what's the best approach?

Both approaches have merit and neither option can be seen as better or more authentic. They are just different choices that add value and diversity to wine tasting.
The range of single varietal labels, varietals or blends most often reflects the preferences of the producer, the local tradition and the desired characteristics of the wine in question.
All we have to do is try out the different proposals and discover those that, according to our particular taste, appear to be the most interesting.

Discover your wine style

Whether you're looking for an experience more focused on the personality of a particular grape, or you like to be surprised by the complexity of a blend of grape varieties, we have one piece of advice for you: explore a lot and discover your preferences.
At Sogevinus, we are more than prepared to help you do this successfully. The Douro's unique terroir and its wealth of indigenous grape varieties allow us to offer a very broad portfolio of wines. Whether they are single varietals, varietals or blends, they all have one thing in common: a strong identity that brings the true authenticity of this region to you.

Take a look at our  Uva Wine Shop and see the selection we have prepared for you!