If you choose reds exclusively by a single varietal (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, etc.), you could be overlooking some amazing finds. Many marvelous reds are blends of two more grapes, and the best bring qualities you love about each to the mix: the fruitiness of Merlot with the structure of Cabernet, for example.
Some of the most renown red blends hail from the Bordeaux region of France, and most are anchored by either Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. While Bordeaux wines can climb in price to cellar-trophy splurges, here are three entry-level wines that can give you a good taste of this region for a moderate price:
• Château Clément-Pichon Cru Bourgeois 2008 (Haut-Médoc; $17): Perfect for lovers of dry reds, this one offers hallmark Cab qualities of dark fruit and tobacco with a bonus of subtle licorice on the finish.
• Château Paloumey Cru Bourgeois 2006 (Haut-Médoc; $17): Good things are worth waiting for, and the 2006 vintage—a full-bodied wine with noticeable tannins—is ready to drink now.
• Château La Freynelle Merlot-Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (Bordeaux; $14): Enjoy an inviting balance of both dark and bright fruits in this nicely priced bottle.
California winemakers also make admirable red blends worth seeking out. A few examples:
• Matchbook 2007 Tinto Rey Red Wine (California; $17). A complex, Tempranillo-based blend with cherry-blueberry flavors and spice on the finish.
• Red Rock Winemaker’s Blend Red Wine (California; $14): This one is for those who like their reds deeply fruity and silky-smooth.
• Clayhouse Adobe Red 2009 (Central Coast; $14): Like a soft and stylish velvet coat, this medium-bodied red is plush—but won’t weigh you down.
—By Wini Moranville