Profile Four Five: How Varietals Differ from Blending wine for Taste Profiles and Where We Talk about Pinot Noir, Tempranillo and Malbec
Welcome to the second installment in our series on our profiles, their personalities and why we make our wines the way we do. If you’re new to the series, here’s a little background, if not, you can skip ahead and read about our Profile Four Five
What’s the secret to our Profile Four Five (and all of our wines)? Well, we design our wines by taste profile – the perfect combination of the tastes and textures wine drinkers love most in their wines – as opposed to limiting ourselves by varietals, vintage or growing regions. We’re out to simplify things and be your go to house wine, the glass you love every single time – and you just can’t do that the same way with a varietal.
We’ve all found that bottle of wine we just adore. So we buy it over and over again and then all of a sudden, that same bottle, with the same label, from the same vineyard, doesn’t taste the same. Something has changed and it’s no longer our favorite. Maybe it got sweeter, or more dry. Maybe it has more tannins or is more acidic – or less. Maybe it’s got too much dark fruit and not enough earthiness. Whatever it is, we don’t love it anymore.
This is because single varietals are subject to everything and anything that happens to the grapes during the year before harvest (and anything and everything in the soil). Vagaries of weather, fluctuations in soil content, changes in pruning, fire – even smoke will affect the grapes. Those fluctuations can be mitigated when making wines based on taste profiles, rather than relying on that single varietal.
PROFILE FOUR FIVE
Our newest wine, Profile Four Five, is just what it sounds like, a combination of all the things we (and our members and tasters) love about our Profiles Four and Five. Our founder, Sarah, spent hundreds of hours at over 5,000 tastings this year where she would surprise guests by mixing a little of each of Profiles Four and Five into the same glass. At BOXT, we’re all about simplifying things and helping people understand why they like what they like in a wine – and how to talk about it. It’s as much an experiment in having fun as it is in understanding how different varietals, when blended together, make incredible combinations in taste and texture. This is a big reason we choose not to stick to a single variety of wine.
People loved the taste and texture of the two profiles together so much, Sarah decided it was time to make it real and Profile Four Five was born. Winemaking is part art, part craft, part science, part research and part iteration. So we researched (AKA tasted) and crafted the perfect marriage of all the key characteristics of each profile – paying attention to how they played off each other. We love the freedom we’ve created here at BOXT to play with texture, aromatics, terrior and taste profiles to come up with new wines that delight us. It’s why we choose not to stick to a single varietal, because listen, we’d be bored producing wine from only merlot or chardonnay grapes. Winemaker’s note: We respect and admire the craftsmanship and art that goes into single varietal wines. At BOXT, we’re just after something different – being your on-tap house wine by bringing to the table (or should we say glass) a way to simplify fine wine and create the napa experience in your home.
We’re also after more than just making a premium wine. We’re here to help people understand why they like what they like in a wine – and how to talk about it.
Which is why we want to dive in a little to the different wines we use in our profiles, where they come from and why we like to combine them.
Like it’s cousin Profile Four, our Profile Four Five has a good dose of ripe pinot noir grapes from the Russian River Valley in the Sonoma Coast region of northern California. When the grapes start to turn color, the growth process has stopped and the ripening process has begun. If you’re extra, you’d call it veraison. We’ll just stick with ripening. As the grapes ripen, their sugars increase and their acid levels fall. Finding the right balance of sugars, acids and alcohol level is at the heart of the craft of winemaking. So is knowing when to pick your berries.
But it’s not just about the ripeness of the grapes. The terrior – the overall weather, elevation, climate and soil conditions – of a vineyard have a huge impact on how the grapes grow, mature and taste, and therefore a huge impact on the juice you pour into your glass. Sonoma County Winegrowers perfectly describes the terroir where we source our pinot: the Sonoma coast in California which runs from Bodega Bay up through the Jenner headlands and the Russian River Valley which sits inland from that coast about 15 miles.
“The climate in Russian River Valley is shaped by the constant cooling fog from the Pacific Ocean, coming from just a few miles to the west. Much like the tide, it ebbs and flows through the Petaluma Wind Gap and the channel cut by the Russian River through the coastal hills. The fog usually arrives in the evening, often dropping the temperature 35 to 40 degrees from its daytime high. The natural air-conditioning allows the grapes to develop full flavor maturity over an extended growing season – often 15 to 20 percent longer than neighboring areas, while retaining their all-important natural acidity.”1
We’ve written a very brief history of the fabulous pinot noir grape in this series already, so we won’t repeat ourselves here and we’ll move on to talking about some of the other fabulous grapes we put into in our Profile Four Five which, when blended with pinot noir, can produce the exact taste we’re looking for.
Let’s start with Tempranillo. This grape was first grown and made into wine in ancient Phoenicia (present day Iran). It later migrated about 5,000 miles west and slightly north to the Iberian peninsula of Spain and Portugal with the Phonecians in 1100 BCE. Spain now grows 87% of the world’s tempranillo, followed by Portugal with just under 8% and Argentina at only 2% – the other 3% of the tempranillo pie is divided among 14 other countries.
This grape thrives under similar growing and terrior conditions to pinot noir, so it loves areas with limestone-rich soil, moderate temperatures, multiple water sources, high elevations which cool off at night, or coastal areas which provide the contrast of warm days and cool nights with their signature fog.
These conditions help give this grape its taste elements of black fruit: blackberries, dark cherry and dried fig. These are made more complex by its savory side: cedar, tobacco, dill; and its spicy side: black pepper, clove and anise.
Because of its complexity, tempranillo pairs easily with most foods, but loves grilled meat and vegetables, anything smoked and it also goes great with Mexican dishes.
You might be wondering why we don’t just use pinot noir or tempranillo on their own and call it good. Little known fact: most wines are blends, even the wines that just have one varietal on the label. Wines only have to be 75% of one type of grape to be labeled as a single, particular variety. In the most simple terms, grapes are blended to make the wine better. A single grape doesn’t have the complexity to round out the taste, aromas and feel that wine drinkers want from their glass. Other wines add tannins, or acid, or lower those things, they add fullness or sweetness, or a better finish. But you can read all about the the details of blending later.
For now, we’ll talk some more about the whole effect we’re going for with our Four Five and how we get there.
This wine is meant to be easy to drink, and yet slightly complex. Much like our crowd pleaser Profile Four, it goes down easy, it pairs with nearly everything and at the same time, like our Profile Five, it’s also a little deeper, a little darker, a little more bold. When we made this wine, we really did just take our other two profiles and combine them, but blending is more than just mixing. We took our time to find the goldilocks effect – where everything is just right for our expectation of this wine. We won’t tell you our secret sauce recipe, but we spent several iterations getting the balance of the Four and Five combination just right, then we added in what our winemaker likes to call the “salt and seasoning” to round out the wine and get it to hit all the notes we want it to hit. This is where the art comes in. You can just mix up some of our Four and Five at home for fun, but it won’t be as good as the one we make for you – and that’s because of the expert blend.
So what other aspects are we looking for to create the perfect profile? Those that we find in a malbec, which hails from the French town of Cahors in the South of France, though 75% of malbec is now grown in Argentina, brought there by French ampelographer (aka big fancy word for a botanist who specializes in the cultivation of grapes – who knew there was such a thing) Miguel Pouget.
Like pinot noir, malbec is sensitive to its terroir and can be finicky. It has a thin skin like pinot, which means it needs more sunlight than other varietals and can succumb to frost, rot and a condition called coulure or shattering, where the metabolism of the grape shuts down due to too much cold or too much heat. The flowers don’t open, so they can’t be pollinated and the vine never produces fruit.
We love malbec for many reasons, including its lovely roundness on the middle of your tongue and how its velvety tannins take the edge of its spiciness in just the right amount. Malbec adds to a blend with its notes of dark fruits – similar to a tempranillo, but with plum, raisins and raspberries as well as chocolate, balsamic, vanilla and coffee.
You can see how combining all of these elements leads to a more complex and ultimately more drinkable and delightful wine than we could ever get from just a single grape.
But we’re not done yet. We also like to include elements found in merlot. Another old grape, this one dates back to the Bordeaux region of France in the first century AD.
“Merlot is a variety of black wine grape that is originally from the Bordeaux region of France dating back all the way to the first century AD. The name is suggested to have been associated with the French word “merle,” which translates to blackbird where both blackbird and the Merlot grape share the similar black and blue colour.
Back in the day, the inconsistent weather in France caused the harvest to be different each year. This led winemakers to blend grapes together to ensure the balance of the flavours in their wines each year. While Merlot is primarily used as a blending grape, there are still a few places in Bordeaux that only makes Merlot-based wines and are known to be some of the most famous and expensive wines in the world that can cost over $5000 a bottle.”2
This blackish-blue grape is a descendent of cabernet franc, though merlot has a thinner skin. It likes growing in silt, gravel, clay or limestone. Merlot’s structure is lighter in tannins, which makes it feel smoother and softer with a fruity, less complex body than pinot noir. You’ll find similar tasting notes in merlot as in malbec, while merlot carries the dark fruit notes of malbec and also favors similar undertones of cocoa and vanilla, it also gets a little earthy with notes of bay leaf. And while malbec is tangier and fruitier, making it taste thinner – partly why it goes so well with spicy foods – merlot is rounder, fuller and smoother. This is why we love playing them off one another.
But don’t just take our word for it. If you’re familiar with us at all, you know we love a good tasting and we love to drink other wines. We play really well with bottles. So get some friends together and try our newest member of the family, Profile Four Five along with these varietals and see what you think.
We’d love to hear about your experience. Drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Instagram at @drinkboxt.
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