That term — “red wine blends” — should produce some rolled eyes and deep sighs among a portion of my readers. After all, there’s nothing unusual about red wine blends. However, a few years ago, my colleagues in wine writing and I began receiving press releases from eager and enthusiastic marketers and PR people extolling the hot new trend of blended red wines, particularly from California, and what an innovation these wines were. Apparently these bright-eyed and rosy-cheeked young persons never heard of, for example, Bordeaux, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Port and Chianti (or old-fashioned Chianti). Nevertheless, secure in that knowledge, I’ll review today a trio of pretty damned unusual or at least interesting red wine blends from Portugal, Uruguay and California’s Sonoma County. Each is quite individual from the others.

These wines were samples for review, as I am required to inform my readers by fiat of the Federal Trade Commission.
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The Monte da Peceguina 2015 comes from the Portuguese region of Alentejo, where is was made by Herdade da Malhadinha Nova, a compound that includes a hotel, spa and restaurant as well as a winery. The sparsely populated region covers most of the lower third of Portugal; its chief asset and export is cork. Vinho Regional Alentejano, this wine’s category, is the designation for the entire region, VR being somewhat the equivalent of the French vin de pays. Monte da Peceguina 2015 is a blend of native grapes with several imports, none in the majority: 25 percent touriga nacional, 23 percent syrah, 22 percent aragonez, 20 percent alicante bouschet and 10 percent cabernet sauvignon; call it a sort of Portuguese-French hybrid. Information about oak aging is not available. Far from these divergent grapes uneasily co-existing, they came together to form a robust, vigorous whole greater than the sum of its parts. The color is intense dark ruby; it’s a ferrous and sanguinary wine that features ripe and fleshy black currants, blueberries and plums infused with cloves and sandalwood, mint and licorice, with a burgeoning tide of smoke and tar. A wallop of graphite bathes the palate ahead of dry dusty, gritty tannins and vibrant acidity; it’s a dark, brooding, pondering place in the black and blue fruit flavors slightly sympathetic to hints of lavender and violets that succumb to a dense, mineral-ridden finish. 14.5 percent alcohol. Try from 2019 through 2028 to ’30 with steaks, roasted goat and pork and game meats. Excellent. About $19.

Imported by Wine in Motion, Union, N.J.
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Bodegas Marichal was founded in 1938 and is now operated by the family’s third and fourth generation. The estate’s vineyards are located in the province of Canelones, 15 miles north of Montevideo, Uruguay’s capital. Though this wine offers the simplest blend of this trio, it’s also the most unusual. The Marichal Reserve Collection Pinot Noir/Tannat 2015 is a blend of — yes — 70 percent pinot noir and 30 percent tannat. Let’s think about this pairing. Pinot noir is often considered sacrosanct in its elegance and perfumed singularity, that is, a red grape so noble and highly characteristic that it is not to be blended with other grapes — unless producers in Burgundy surreptitiously pump up the color of their wines with a slurp of Cotes-du-Rhone from the south. Ha-ha, of course that would never happen! On the other hand, tannat, tough as a motorcyclist’s left boot and tannic as black tea left in the pot overnight, well, gosh, tannat seems an anomaly even if its function is to lend heft and structural might to pinot noir. The grape, declining in plantings in France, gives robustness and rusticity to the red wines of Madiran and Irouleguy in the Southwest, in the foothills east of the Pyrenees. Seventy percent of the Marichal Reserve Collection Pinot Noir/Tannat 2015 aged 10 months in oak barrels. The color is a brilliant medium ruby hue, and while the mild color might indicate a mild wine, the aromas of dusty, briery black currants and plums, permeated by cloves and graphite, tell us that the 30 percent tannat tends to dominate the enterprise; a silky texture feels slightly roughened by dry sifted tannins that provide grip and traction on the palate rarely encountered in pinot noir. In other words, the blend here is transformative, with the lesser grape working its powerful wiles upon the greater. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. It’s certainly a very unusual drink. 13 percent alcohol. Now through 2022 or ’24. Very Good+. About $20.

Global Vineyard Imports, Berkeley, Calif.
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Looking at the roster of wines available from Rodney Strong Vineyards, your first thought might be, “Do they need another label?” The answer to your inquiry would be: “Probably not,” yet here is Upshot 2015, a Sonoma County blend — primarily Alexander and Knights valleys — of 44 percent zinfandel, followed by 29 percent merlot, 15 percent malbec and 7 percent petit verdot and — out in left field — 5 percent riesling. It’s not unprecedented for red wine to contain a bit of aromatic white to elevate the nose and provide a touch of softness to a rigorous structure; after all, among the 13 grape varieties permitted in the typically deeply dark Chateauneuf-du-Pape, only nine are red. (Few CdP producers today employ all 13 varieties or any white grapes at all.) Anyway, Upshot 2015 aged 18 months in oak barrels. The color is dark ruby shading to a lighter magenta rim; notes of black currants, cherries and plums are ripe and fleshy, slightly spiced and macerated and infused with hints of iodine and iron, mint and licorice and a touch too much vanilla to suit me. On the palate, the wine is super-charged by vivid acidity and layered with fairly stout, dusty, graphite-washed tannins; a bit of zinfandel-influenced blueberry and boysenberry emerges after a few minutes in the glass, and perhaps a whiff on the back-end of something astringently floral from that smatter of riesling. So, yeah, nicely made, yet I don’t find this model totally impressive, in fact a bit too much generically “red wine” or “cabernet-ish” than distinctive enough, especially for the price. On the other hand, you and this wine could have a really good time with a medium-rare rib-eye steak, hot and crusty from the grill. 14.5 percent alcohol. Now through 2020 to ’22. Very Good+. About $28.
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