August 24, 2015

Wine Blending Workshop

at Chateau Maucoil, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Rhone

By In Rhone Travels
Rules are rules; when blending a Cotes du Rhone red you have to start with a base of 60% Grenache*. So that is exactly what we did – carefully pouring our first sample wine to the correct measure. When I say ‘carefully pouring’ some of us *ahem* managed to spread a substantial amount all over the top of the old wine barrels being used as our tables or ‘wine blending stations’ as our hosts called them.

So here we were deep in Châteauneuf-du-Pape territory just north of Avignon, swooshing around samples of wine to make our own blend of Côtes du Rhône. Unlike the 13 different grape varieties that can be squeezed into a bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, our Côtes du Rhône Grenache base can be spiked with just Syrah and Mourvèdre.

In the red wines, Grenache, the base variety, brings fruity flavours, warmth, and body. Syrah and Mourvèdre give the wine their spicy aromas, and a colour and structure suitable for ageing. Cinsault adds to the wine’s finesse and is perfect for nouveau wines that are sold in the same year they are harvested and rosés.

Now much fun was had in adding a carefully measured sample of Mourvèdre followed by a tiny amount of Syrah. We sampled and spat, ummed and arred a little then had another go. I’m rather a fan of Grenache so went a little g-heavy before adding a little complexity with the other two. I think my final blend went in the 65-20-15 ratio. But frankly the fun was in the measuring and stirring rather than creating the ‘perfect’ Côtes du Rhône blend.

Blend completed our precious creations were gingerly transported from the blending room to the winery proper for a manual insertion of a cork and plastering on of a label. So Cuvee Andrew was created. While it was recommended that the wine was consumed within a couple of days mine suffered several days bumping around the back roads of the Rhone as we continued our tour and a speedy train trip back to England. It was a full two weeks after this that I finally got around to trying the wine.

And you know what? It was fine. Actually it was better than fine is was bloody lovely. But now I wonder what it would have been like if we had been given just a soupçon of Cinsault to add…

Chateau Maucoil is in the southern Rhône Valley were they produce wines under the Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Côtes du Rhône and Vaucluse labels. The vineyards cover 30 hectares in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, 5 hectares in Côtes du Rhône with Vaucluse having 8 hectares. The estate was taken over by Bénédicte Bonnet Arnaud and her husband Charles Bonnet, in 2009.

Wine Blending Workshop at Chateau Maucoil, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Rhone

Our vineyard is swept by the famous Mistral is one of the driest areas of the Rhône Valley. With around 3000 hours of sunshine per year (about 300 days), we are among the sunniest regions of France. This climate allows us to have vineyards that produce very concentrated wines that are found in our delicious bottles.

It is on this beautiful land that our ancestors have planted “13 varieties”. Grenache is most often prevails in our wines red Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Syrah, Cinsault and Mourvèdre contribute their assembly with the Grenache to give an intensely deep colour and aromas of great richness. The thirteen varieties for Châteauneuf-du-Pape are Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Cinsault, Spangle, Counoise, Clairette, Bourboulenc, Roussanne, Picpoul, Picardan, Vaccarèse and Black Terret.


* I believe the actual AOC rules stipulate 50% Grenache although our hosts insisted on 60%.

Came as rather a shock that Maucoil have used photos from our session in their publicity material!

wine blending workshop leaflet

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Top :: Comments

  1. Simone August 29, 2015

    Sounds like a perfect place to have a wine blending workshop. I never even knew that existed!

  2. Meeta September 2, 2015

    I have to admit, like SImone I never realized one could actually do workshops about blendings. Sounds very intriguing!

  3. Simon Woolf September 9, 2015

    Sod the blending, what matters is that you managed to find a steel tank to photograph!

    • Andrew Barrow September 13, 2015

      one has to get the priorities right! And what is a stainless tank if not a object to be photographed in all its shiny glory?


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