How the protea Red Blend Got Even Better

protea red bottleHow do you make a great wine even better? In the case of the protea Red, you get input from two experts on fashioning beautiful red blends for the U.S. market.

The 2012 Red is 100 percent grown and made in South Africa, taking advantage of protea’s excellent Western Cape vineyards and talented winemaker, Dawie Botha. But with this vintage, the protea team also gained insights from two Napa winemakers who both have traveled to South Africa: Elizabeth Vianna, from Chimney Rock Winery, known for its world-class Cabernet Sauvignon; and Marisa Taylor, of the acclaimed Napa Valley Merlot house Rutherford Hill.

Not surprisingly, the new blend is all about Cab and Merlot – 53 percent Cabernet Sauvgionon, and 47 percent Merlot, to be precise.

These are the classic Big Two of the Bordeaux varieties, and it’s Bordeaux that has long been the inspiration for the blended red wine,s though of course there are other famous blends, from appellation wines like Chateauneuf-du-Pape to proprietary wines like Penfolds Grange. While you can find plenty of 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon wines from other places, most notably California, in Bordeaux the grape is always blended, and often with Merlot. (Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot can find their way into Cab-based Bordeaux wines as well, but there is much more Merlot to work with in Bordeaux – in fact, Merlot is the most-planted grape in the region, surpassing even Cabernet.)

The two just seem to be meant for each other, with the intensity and depth of Cabernet Sauvignon complemented by the bright and supple Merlot.

Of course, that doesn’t mean just any old combination of Cab and Merlot is going to be a winner. It takes blending the right amount of each variety, and even more painstakingly toying with a wide range of lots that might emphasize different characteristics. To that end, the Cab and Merlot that go into the protea Red are fermented separately and aged in concrete vats for 18 months before bottling. The result is a wine that’s plenty big and rich – it will pair great with a grilled steak this summer – but with a juicy quality that gives it the versatility to enjoy with a broader range of foods, or even on its own.

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