Blending is a tried-and-true practice in the wine industry. But it's also an insurance policy for a winery if a single plot of grapes grows poorly throughout the season or yields are too low. Blending also ensures that a winery is producing the best-tasting wine possible, as most blends are made from finished batches of wines of the same varietal, all mixed together.
But there's an older, edgier, riskier practice called "field blending," which involves planting different varietals within the same vineyard. Not all the varieties ripen at the same rate or have similar yields, yet all the different grapes are harvested, crushed and vinified together to create a unique, distinctive wine.
In Austria, field blends have been part of the country's winemaking history for many years. Known as Gemischter Satz, Austrian field blends are made from many white grape varieties--such as Gruner Veltliner, Riesling, Pinot Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc--that are planted together in the same vineyard. The Gemischter Satz is particularly common in the capital city of Vienna.
America has its own somewhat eccentric field blends, too. Perhaps the most notable is Bonny Doon Vineyard's Randall Grahm, who's known for coming up with wacky blends that taste great and don't burn your bank account. Grahm's Contra Old Vine Field Blend 2012 ($15), for example, is composed of four different red Rhône varietals. And on the east coast, Channing Daughters winery on Long Island offers Mosaico ($29), which brings together Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat Ottonel, Tocai and Gewurztraminer.
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