COMPOSING THE ERNIE ELS SIGNATURE SYMPHONY
When it comes to wine, we South Africans are very specific about our likes and dislikes. We’re also very loyal. Often when the conversation steers towards wine, we highlight specific cultivars that either do it for us, or don’t. But when our taste is so cultivar specific, how often do we consider the big wide world of the blend? Blending wine is a meticulous craft that demands a deep understanding of harmonising various cultivars, each with its own nuances and character. True, blends are more complex than single cultivar wines – and differ greatly from vintage to vintage – and therefore, harder to get to know. But isn’t that what is so alluring about them?
The history of blending in winemaking spans centuries. Delving into the art of the blend unveils an intricate process of weaving together the unique qualities of each cultivar. Like instruments in a symphony, each cultivar plays its own role, contributing distinct character to the final blend. The outcome is a wine that goes beyond individual tasting notes, offering a harmonious sensory experience that is greater than the sum of its parts.
When blending, the winemaker carefully selects specific cultivars to bring very specific desirable characteristics to the blend. For instance, Cabernet Sauvignon may be chosen for its robust tannins, structure, and agreeability, while Merlot’s softer tannins and fruit-forward nature adds approachability. Combining these cultivars creates a wine that achieves a balance of structure and elegance, showcasing the best of both varieties.
Every blending component serves a purpose in shaping the final blend. Cabernet Franc adds aromatic complexity, with notes of red fruits, herbs, and floral tones. Petit Verdot contributes depth, intensity, and firm tannins, complemented by its dark fruit flavours and spice. Meanwhile, Malbec brings color, body, and plush texture, with flavours of blackberry and dark plum. Careful proportioning of these components allows the winemaker to achieve the desired flavour profile, texture, and overall character of the blend.
VINEYARDS AND VINTAGES COLLIDE
Blending is an art that extends beyond grape varieties, as winemakers may also work with wines from different vineyards or vintages, further enhancing complexity and depth. Skilfully layering these various components enables winemakers to create wines that showcase the best qualities of each element, achieving a cohesive whole.
Ultimately, blending is a meticulous process that requires technical expertise and a deep understanding of each component’s characteristics.
SOMETHING OF A SCIENCE
If you’re new to blends, it can be tricky to know where to start. One way to “educate” yourself is to start looking at the compositions of specific blends. After a while, you’ll start recognising what makes a blend great to you by understanding how the different cultivars work together to find that magical happy place.
When looking at the Ernie Els Signature 2017, who can tell the following from its individual cultivars:
60% Cabernet Sauvignon
The foundation of the blend. Bold, masculine. A concentration of tannins provides the wine with longevity.
Brings an element of approachability to the blend. Delicate and feminine red fruit.
5% Cabernet Franc
Austerity and texture. Provides aspects of forest floor and graphite.
5% Petit Verdot
Strength and character in tannic structure. The secret ingredient to the scaffolding on which longevity rests.
The marketing department. Brings vivacity to the fruit profile through fresh bright violet and red fruits.
The Ernie Els Signature 2017 is a truly exceptional blend. Each cultivar is nurtured and harvested with the sole purpose of contributing to crafting the whole, and does not exist on its own.
BLENDING AT ITS FINEST
Ernie Els Signature, the crowning jewel of blending artistry, stands as a testament to winemaker Louis Strydom’s mastery. With every bottle, a journey through the vineyards unfolds, allowing the savouring of the culmination of years of expertise and passion. It is a blend that embodies the essence of the craft, seamlessly integrating cultivars to create a symphony of flavours—a true testament to the art of blending.