A few weeks ago Paul and I were over at Whitecliff Vineyards blending their Cayuga wine. Cayuga White, which is the proper name of the grape is a hybrid cross between Schuyler and Seyval Blanc. Personally, I haven’t met a Cayuga that I liked, but when you are blending wine, you are not blending the wine because you like the grape, you need to blend it for the customer.
On a personal note – this was the first time Paul and I had worked together making a blend. It was just me and him in the tank room. We didn’t argue, we actually enjoyed working together, I think.
We began by making 150ML bottles of blending Cayuga with tank fermented Chardonnay. We had our control bottle of Cayuga, then began by adding 10% Chardonnay in 5% increments until it was 50/50. The two blends that were 85/15 an 80/20 had wonderful bouquets.
After everything was blended we went upstairs to sit with Michael the owner/winemaker. The tastings began. I liked the 80/20 Paul liked the 70/30. We weren’t satisfied. So….we went back to the blending table and added Riesling to the mix. Each 150ML had 10% Riesling. I liked the blend that was 76.5% Cayuga 13.5 Chard and 10% Riesling. Or course we never agree – Paul like the blend of 72% Cayuga 18% Chard and 10% Riesling.
But we still weren’t happy. So….we decided to take the Cayuga straight and add residual sugar to it. We mixed one that was 1.5% 3.6% and 4.4%. I am not one for sweet wines but with the acidity of the wine you couldn’t tell that it was 4.4% RS.
The winning blend was the straight Cayuga with 4.4% RS. Served cold on a hot summers day, the acidic balance with the RS will make it a very enjoyable wine. At least I hope.
A few things I learned blending wine:
- Adding vinifera to a hybrid doesn’t always make the wine taste better.
- Adding just a little bit of another variety can change the taste and bouquet dramatically.
- Sometimes balancing out the acid with sugar will make the wine taste better on its own.
- Have a good calculator.