Monday, January 31, 2022

Dan Berger: Blended Red Wines

One of the most popular categories of wines in the last two years is the nearly ubiquitous blended red wine, which is so popular that it has become synonymous with everyday drinking for millions of Americans.

A couple of weeks ago, a stranger, hearing I was a wine writer, asked me what I thought of a particularly ordinary although expensive (to me) blended red. I say expensive because it's about $17 a bottle, but I find it to be worth about $5.

And when a wine sells for three times what I suspect it should, I call it expensive. And my reaction to his question was, "Not very much." I suspected he would agree, but instead he said he thought it was terrific stuff.

There wasn't much for me to reply, but short of spending 20 minutes or so explaining my reasoning, I was left to simply apologize. I said that I hoped he continued to enjoy the wine that so many others also enjoyed, and that taste is in the mouth of the beholder.

I didn't say that I found the wine to be detestable.

The episode rankled me. I'm normally not particularly pejorative in my comments about wines that I don't favor, but his query took me off guard. And my gut reaction wasn't especially agreeable. 

For those interested in modest blended reds, here are a few issues that might help make buying decisions easier for some of these wines.

First, try to find out what grape varieties were used. That should help some. A good place to start is the use of sound blending grapes, starting with some of the best such as grenache (aromatics and texture), cinsault (rich fruit), syrah (dark, rich flavors), petite sirah (weight) and zinfandel (spiced fruit). 

I'm not a big fan of cabernet or pinot noir in red wine blends; they don't seem to play well with other varieties.

Chances are, however, that you won't find out what grapes are in a particular blend, so the next best thing to know is how much alcohol is in it. 

Moderation here counts. Ideal is 12.5% to 14%. The closer wine is to 15% alcohol, the less flavor any wine will deliver. Over 15%? Don't light a match.

Higher-alcohol wines may well be soft and rich, which some people really like. But blended reds often are aimed at being served with meals, and 15% alcohol wines go with meals as well as pickled tomatillos go with ice cream.

After alcohol content comes the region. If the appellation on a bottle of wine is "California," buyers know nothing of its origin except that it came from grapes grown in one of 58 counties. No help there. Wines that say they're from smaller regions (like Livermore, Santa Barbara, Sierra Foothills) often are slightly pricier, but can be better values. 

The vintage date on a wine also is helpful. It lets potential buyers know how long the stuff has been in the bottle. Seek vintages that are no older than 2017. A 2016 wine may be fine, but it's already been five years.

Wines that have no vintage date can also be excellent choices if the wine is from a brand with fast turnover. Though some classic red wines age well, older is usually not better for modestly priced wines.

Blended red wines, as a category, range all over the place both in terms of style and quality, and prices can vary from very reasonable to outrageous. As a result, some everyday-wine buyers have re-discovered some values in varietals.

Wine of the Week: 2020 Barefoot Merlot, California ($9): This very large brand has developed quite a following among people who appreciate inexpensive and tasty wines that they can afford on a daily basis. This specific varietal has always produced a lovely dry red, and here the flavors are close enough to authentic to call this a true bargain. It is often seen at around $7. (KF Note: BRIARWOOD HAS IT!!!)

To find out more about Dan Berger and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at




Anonymous said...

Guess he isn't the wine snob he appeared to be if he recommends an $8 bottle of Barefoot.

Kingfish said...

Most of his recommendations are in the $10-20 range.

Anonymous said...

Great article. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

"...blended red wine..."

Yes, well...Bordeaux. As to things like "starting with some of the best such as grenache (aromatics and texture), cinsault (rich fruit), syrah (dark, rich flavors), petite sirah (weight) and zinfandel (spiced fruit)," yes,

Note to KF - I have no idea how Mr. Berger's "wine writing" is monetized by anyone, if at all, but whatever the "price" to anyone, it is too expensive.

Anonymous said...

Gets heat for being a snob...decides to go slumming and recommends Barefoot ! Hahahahahahahahahaahaaahh !!

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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