The wine blend, or assemblage, is an important step in winemaking.

The assemblage consists of the technique of mixing different portions of wine from the same crop (or not), coming from different lands, or from different types of grapes.

First, let's go to the facts:
What differs from an assemblage of a
cut or blend? Anything. Exactly.

All terms refer to the same subject: mix two, or more types of wine. Whether they are wines of different grapes, different vintages, different vines, different lands, and so on.

But all of this is very shallow, right? So let's understand each part better and why this is done.

In this post we will learn what it is, how it is made, what grapes can be mixed and why the winemaker makes the wine blends. Come on?

CURIOSITY
When a wine is not a cut, blend or assemblage, we call them "Varietal". In South America, including Brazil, the great part of the wines are varietal, that is, composed only of a variety of grapes. That is why we buy wine for "Malbec" and "Cabernet Sauvignon", while in France we buy "Bordeaux" or "Burgundy", which are names of producing regions and are generally assemblages. Another curiosity: Burgundy only makes cuts of Pinot Noir planted in different areas / terroir.

For our text, we will always use assemblage, but remember that everything is good for blend or court.

Understanding what an assemblage is

The assemblage is the mixture of wines of the same geographical origin, selected for their complementary qualities.

It is about gathering vintages made separately by variety of grape, by land, by terroir or by harvest, in order to try to obtain the best possible wine.

The oenologist will gather these different elements to find the most complete and good quality wine possible.

Here is an example of what can be achieved through assemblage: 

  • The freshness of one grape will relieve the power of another;
  • The lightness of one wine will reduce the concentration of another;
  • The tannicity of one wine may relieve the other;
  • A non-existent aroma in another wine can increase the aroma spectrum of the final wine.

Mixing all these variables you've read above, can add complexity to the wine, making the winemaker to offer a wine differentiated to its consumer.

Between the cut with different vintages, the tanks with older wines, which would give the "excellent wine", could receive lighter wines and with less potential of guard.

If the producer wants this wine, it can be assemblage a second wine or the second brand of your winery, which is not a rule and also does not happen often.

At Assemblages in the case of Champagne is a little different: in this style of wine, the assemblage concerns several different harvests and harvests. We'll see that later, do not give up !!

What does Assemblage mean?

Assemblage is a technique that consists of mixing wines from different vines or different varieties of grapes, even from different vintages.

For example, Bordeaux produces wines in almost all its assemblages, since these wines are composed of grape varieties with complementary characteristics.

A great example, the Cabernet Sauvignon with the Merlot, which is the most common cut of the region of Bordeux in France. Cabernet Sauvignon complements the Merlot, and vice versa.

Stronger characteristics in one, stand out what the other has less. It is a true marriage, a society. They join forces for a better wine.

French Assemblages

Still on Bordeaux, wines of the Médoc are composed mainly of Cabernet Sauvignon, while the Libournais wines are made mainly of Merlot grape.

Depending on the winemaker, wines of different grape varieties or even of different terroirs (who also explained what is here on the blog) are mixed to compose the final wine that will sign the style of the winery.

The example of Bordeaux was quoted, because when speaking in France. the wine is most often bought only by the region that is produced, not by the variety of which wine is made. The concept of varietal wines is much more popular when it comes to New World wines.

Percentage of grapes in assemblages

70% Grenache, 30% Syrah. It is not uncommon to find quasi-mathematical formulas on wine bottle labels. These numbers indicate the portion of each variety (type) of grape contained in a wine.

In some regions of the world, assemblages are subject to precise rules, established by local bodies that give the Denomination of Origin seal, for example.

In Brazil, the legislation allows wine to be classified as a varietal if a grape is responsible for 70% of its composition. So the other 30% can be an assemblage with a wine that may not even be informed.

Types of assemblages in wine

Within the assemblages, there are several possibilities. Mix crops, types of grapes, different regions, all together, or separate. The main and most common in the market are the following:

  • ASSEMBLAGE OF VARIETIES

Mixing grapes is an ancient technique that can be linked to the traditional practice of planting several grape varieties on a single plot.

The different varieties of grapes have their own characteristics, including in terms of maturity, of how mature this grape can be, allowing to acquire balance and contribute to the complexity of the wine, considering the characteristics of each grape that will be part of the wine.

Today, mixtures of grape varieties no longer depend on this technique of planting, they are planted on different terrains, in most cases.

  • ASSEMBLAGE OF TERROINES OR TERRENOS

Some regions, such as Burgundy or the Loire, which produce wines (the famous) from a single grape, however, practice blends of different shapes. The oenologist can, for example, play on varieties of the same variety. Got confused? Let's explain.

Each variety has several different clones (genetic variations, modified to produce better, or to give more focus to a characteristic of the grape, sweetness, acidity, for example). Thus, there are 45 approved Pinot Noir clones and almost 800 different clones are gathered in various collections of vines.

Different soils or terrains can also be used, depending on the type of soil, the orientation (relative to the sun), the age of the vines, etc. You can still use different types of refinement techniques, such as barrel (with various ages), concrete or stainless steel.

These combinations have the same goal: to get richer wines, more balanced and more complex than if they were bottled separately.

  • ASSEMBLAGES OF SAFRAS

Harvesting is a prohibited practice in almost all of France, except for sparkling wines such as Champagne, so-called reserve wines, the famous Cuvée.

Thanks to this assembling technique, champagne brands can maintain consistent quality and flavor characteristics over time. This kind of assemblage linearity between crops.

This is why the vintage year is not included in the labels of champagne because it is made from wines from different vintages.

The vintage champagne is the only one that indicates a vintage year because it corresponds to a wine produced from grapes of the same year and, in general, exceptional.

Why mix several types of grapes?

This assemblage, allows winemakers to obtain wines more complex than if they used only a variety of grape, or even to maintain a linearity between their wines, when in some vintage some variety is better than the other.

This technique is the main way to take advantage of grape maturity (maturation time, ripening). Let's explain better.

Varieties of grapes (Merlot, Cabernet, etc.), have a variety at ripening point different from one another. The grapes do not ripen at the same rate.

Mixing several grapes offers the possibility to tune, even correct a red wine that is very tannic, or bring acidity to a white wine that has no vividness.

It is also a good way to multiply the aromas, each grape giving different layers of wine aromas. A wine based on Grenache that is mixed with Syrah will develop notes that are spicier than a 100% Grenache, for example.

Where are assemblages most common?

Around the world we have cut wines or assemblage. This technique originates in France, we will see why.

Assemblages in France are found mainly in the Loire Valley. The explanation is simple: in Burgundy and Alsace, the soils are very rich and mainly, very diversified, which makes a wine made from a vine separated by a road are totally different. A few feet away can make a difference.

In this way, mixing the wines produces complex wines from a single varietal, whether Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling or Gewurztraminer.

The vineyards of Bordeaux, Southwest or Provence are often planted in single-piece plots (they are not divided, nor are they in different terroir). Winemakers thus compensate for a more uniform terroir, making mounts with their own terroir, mixing the types of grapes.

Can any type of grape be mixed to create an assemblage?

Nature is always very well organized, so we must pay attention to them when deciding which grapes to use at the time of the assemblage.

When I say that nature is wise, it is enough to analyze the following detail: grape varieties that marry well grow, usually under the same latitude.

Merlot and Cabernet Franc, Mourvèdre and Carignan, etc. Agreements are made in a natural way. The rest is a matter of measures to hit the combination.

Are there assemblages of different crops?

Yes, you can do this and there are wines of this category including national. The only restriction here, is that producer can not for a year on the label. Usually it is used "Lot I", "Lot II", etc.

CURIOSITY
This is the case with Champagne. The vineyard has all the rights in terms of blending. Everything is permitted. Winemakers can combine different varieties of grapes, vintages and even wines of different colors. It is the only region allowed to produce rosé by mixing red wine and white wine. The only restriction is that the Blanc de Blancs champagnes should be made from white grapes, while the Blanc de Noir are produced from red grapes.

At what time is the assemblage made?

The decision depends on the winemakers. Some raise their wines of different grape varieties together: the mixture is made as soon as it is placed in vats.

Others harvest and vinify each grape separately, then add their wines before bottling. This method makes it possible to assess whether or not the wine can be a varietal before being marketed.

During this process, the winemaker makes several attempts to try to find the best proportion of a varietal compared to the other. The remaining wine can then be used to make a "wine inlet" from the winery, usually cheaper, or just different style, more faithful to the characteristics of its grape.

Concluding

So, did you better understand what an assemblage, blend or cut is? Now you have some more luggage to exchange cards with friends! Tell us what you think of the text in the comments fields, it's worth it to know if we are on the right track! <3