Undoubtedly, you’ve tasted a blend at some point. Probably a red wine blend. Between 2013 and 2014, sales in the red blend category increased by a whopping 400 percent.

But blends and field blends are different, and regrettably, field blend wines are not well-known, although they’re tasty. Here’s a brief synopsis of the two styles.

A red blend or a white blend is a wine whose finished product is a mix of different grape varietals. Let’s say, for example, zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon and mourvedre, all growing in California. A winemaker there buys some zinfandel grapes from Paso Robles, some cabernet sauvignon from Napa and some mourvedre from the Sierra Foothills. They are picked in accordance with when they are ripe; the zin might be picked in early October, the cabernet and mourvedre later on in the month.

Each varietal is vinified separately and then the wines are blended together according to what the winemaker wants to achieve. It might be 75 percent zin, 20 percent cab and 5 percent mourvedre. The process is fairly predictable. Each varietal lends something unique, and the winemaker selects for the qualities she wants. Nice and tidy.

A field blend is different and, I think, more interesting. A field blend is likewise made up of several varietals, but they could be a mix of red and white grapes. All are picked at the same time, from the same vineyard, and they are co-fermented. Unlike a standard blend, where the varietals are fermented separately and are usually the same color, field blend grapes undergo their alchemical transformation together.

Field blend wines have a strong element of unpredictability. While a winemaker can know the characteristics of the zinfandel, cabernet and mourvedre when they are fermented separately and blended, field blends are more of a crapshoot. A roll of the vinous dice, you might say. How do zinfandel and cabernet taste when they’re fermented together? What if I throw in a little viognier to boot? Hard tellin’, not knowin’. And that, for me, is the exciting thing about field blends. If they were a punctuation mark, they’d be an ellipsis or a question mark, not a period.


Field blends make up a small percentage of available wines in the world. But here are a couple you can get your hands on right here in Maine.

National Distributors has recently brought in a slew of Hungarian/Georgian/Slovenian wines. The Crnko “Jarenincan” is, mostly, a field blend of white grapes co-planted in the ’70s. The blend is dominated (in most years) by Muller-Thurgau with dashes of riesling, pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay. It is, at once, aromatically floral, full of orchard and stone fruits and completed with a fresh acidity that is kept in check by a tad of residual sugar. It’s quite good, and it’s inexpensive, too. Oh, and it comes in a traditional liter bottle so you get an extra glass of wine for no more money than many 750ml bottles. A no-brainer. Rosemont Market on Brighton Avenue carries the Jarenincan.

Pine State Beverage brings in Paul Draper’s Ridge wines. They are iconic – plain and simple. If you haven’t had the opportunity to sip one of their classic zinfandels, I highly recommend buying one for yourself as a Christmas gift.

Ridge’s Geyserville is a robust blend of zinfandel, petite sirah, mourvedre and carignan. The Old Patch vineyard where some of the grapes come from was planted 130 years ago. The blend is dark and spicy. Blueberry preserves, cocoa powder, toasted coconut and figs are obvious. Ridge winemaker Eric Baugher has managed to retain ample acidity in this one, which is quite a feat. Line your Christmas dinner table with a few bottles, especially if you are serving a Christmas ham or short ribs. This wine is fairly allocated, meaning it’s scarce. You’ll have to special-order it at your local wine shop.

If you, like me, are always on the lookout for interesting wines to expand your drinking repertoire, field blends will make a great addition. They are an underrepresented category of wine – but they don’t have to remain so.

Bryan Flewelling is the wine director for Big Tree Hospitality, which owns Hugo’s, Eventide Oyster Co. and The Honey Paw, all in Portland.

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