The Best Red Blends on a Budget

Always greater then the sum of their parts?

Today we are faced with an ever-expanding selection of wine we might know little about: red blends. We know little about them because it’s sometimes hard to know what’s in one. They are in some respects unfortunate victims of their own success. Their proliferation makes them hard to define, and sometimes hard to compare. Though there is however one thing that holds much of this group together; sweet fruit.

To one extent or another, almost all of the wines tasted today seemed to be aiming for an easy-drinking, lush, and sweetly fruited style. Each choosing their own path of course; and so we begin with a palette of 15 grapes today. We end with a range of styles that seem to have clear audiences. The Apex Cellars Catalyst and Ernie Els Big Easy for those looking for power based on structure for example, or the Troublemaker B6 for those just looking for power.

In a way it makes it challenging to compare. For starters the main grape is different in each of three, grenache, syrah, or cabernet depending on the wine. Even more importantly, the people behind each wine seem to have divergent and clearly defined goals here. My lumping them together is sheerly out of necessity. To some extent I always try and keep in mind intent when assessing a wine, but my biases probably come through and hopefully are well detailed in my notes. For the most part these big reach blends just fall outside of my consumption zone.

Still there was a lot to like here, and wines like this do as well with grilled meats as they will with stews and braises in the cooler months so you should be taking a look at them. Ultimately what they seem to want to offer is more power and richness than you’ll typically find at this $13 to $22-ish price point. You seem to sacrifice some definition and freshness in the mouth for that power, but there are plenty of people who really enjoy this style so expect to see new examples hitting the shelves monthly. Maybe next year I’ll be able to have three separate red blend tastings at this price point based on dominant varietal, but until then it looks like I might be tasting kitchen sink style more often.

One final note. There was a ringer in this case of wines. A wine that is more than double the price of the other wines, but since it falls outside the parameters of the wines I am discussing, I’m not discussing it; I have not included the note below though it is on the following page.

Click here to find the best red blended wines.

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— Gregory Dal Piaz, Snooth