What’s in a blend? Why worry?

One of the many interesting people I met at Beautiful South in London last week was winemaker Kevin Grant. He and his wife Hanli own Ataraxia in Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, on a ridge overlooking the stunningly beautiful, cooler coastal region—whose name (which means “Heaven on Earth”) kept popping up during the two day tasting.

Ataraxia, on a ridge in The Cape's stunningly beautiful Hemel-en-Aarde region (courtesy Ataraxia Wines)

Ataraxia, on a ridge in The Cape’s stunningly beautiful Hemel-en-Aarde region (courtesy Ataraxia Wines)

Kevin won huge acclaim at nearby celebrated Hamilton Russell before establishing Ataraxia, where they focus very much on terroir and varieties suited to the cool climate setting. (Last week we gave serious props to Ataraxia Chardonnay 2012, 91 pts.)

(Google Maps)

(Google Maps)

As Kevin poured me his 2008 Serenity red blend (not in yet in BC), he joked that nobody knows the varieties and proportions in the blend —not even his wife. And, he’s not about to spill the beans now.

The actual make-up of the wine varies from year to year—so it doesn’t help. Even if you’re a certified member of WineGeeksRUs, chances are you won’t be able to nail down the varieties anyway. I have a vague idea what might be in there. But it really doesn’t matter.

And, besides, I like his poetry.

Listen to why he thinks we should quit worrying about what makes up a blend—and appreciate the wine for what it is…



His words rang true with me because, especially in North America, we’ve been raised on the varietal label. So much so that not only does it dictate entirely how wine is marketing and stocked at the store, but dissecting the blend has almost become an unhealthy preoccupation.

After all, what is wine if it’s not, first and foremost, about the place it comes from and the people who make it?

Think terroir, in every aspect.

And if a wine region called “Heaven on Earth” intrigues you, have a look here to see just how beautiful it is.


Walker Bay, just east of Cape Town (courtesy Hermanuswineroute.com)

Walker Bay, southeast of Cape Town (courtesy Hermanuswineroute.com)

• Ataraxia Serenity 2008

What counts is the final result: fruit forward, initially, with vibrant plum and blue fruit, it invites you in with silky tannins, good length, some spicy hints and a touch of mineral, before a smooth and lingering finish. 91 pts.


While you might have to wait a while to taste Kevin’s wine in BC, here’s a couple of other worthy blends that you can track down.

• Glen Carlou Grand Classique 2009. Arguably one of the best value Bordeaux style blends on BC liquor store shelves (and, yes, you can easily find the Cabernet dominated  breakdown). Here’s a drop that’s perfect for pairing with fall inspired stews and serious steaks. Up front red and black fruit with cocoa and mocha notes, with a touch of spice, wrapped in easy tannins. The Deal: BCLS $20.99 90 pts.

• De Martino Las Cruces Old Vines 2010 (Cachapoal). From one of Chile’s most dynamic producers, this wine is emblematic of the ‘new’ Chile but from an older vineyard planted in the late 1950s, primarily to Malbec with Carmenere and some Cab.Sauv. The wine is the sum of its bush vine parts, rewarding with a rich and textured palate damson and chewy chocolate notes with well balanced fruit and oak. Private stores c. $50, 91 pts.