The Evolution of Red Blends—and Why They Aren’t All Created Equal

Near the top of the U.S. market, red blends are an important part of the mix for restaurants and retail shops. Here’s how Rebellious, a red blend from California, delivers unmatched excellence in this popular category

Rebellious Wine
Photo courtesy of Rebellious Wine.
This advertising content was produced in collaboration with our partner, Rebellious Wine.

Red blends have become a blockbuster success over the past 10 years, reaching the No. 2 spot for red wine styles and grape varieties purchased in the U.S. according to Nielsen’s off-premise data for the 52 weeks ending September 11, 2021. While these full-bodied, smooth, easy-drinking wines have carved their own spot amidst the many varietal wines that top the charts of American consumers’ favorite options, not every red blend is created equal—and there’s one that buyers should keep an eye on.

Explore the evolution of the red blend category throughout history and discover the many reasons why Rebellious, a California red blend born from exceptional, carefully selected fruit, is a cut above the rest.

A Category with a Rich History

While the modern American red blend has spiked in popularity recently, many exciting and important wines are red blends, including some of the most enchanting and memorable bottles in the world. Consider the icons from Bordeaux or France’s Rhône Valley, for instance—these are all symbols of the heights that red blends can reach. 

Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin both prized bottles from Bordeaux, making this style of wine relevant in the New World. And as settlers from France and Italy established vineyards in the United States, the formula from home was often transferred. “There’s a deep history of red blends in the U.S.,” says Nick Poletto, the vice president, director of education at Kobrand. “Just as there is throughout the Old World.”

The U.S. market has fashioned its own response to these blends, many made with fruit from California. Since the mid-1990s, New World producers have modeled the methods of the classics, but with a renaissance that reflects the most desirable flavor and branding elements of the time. 

These days, the category has become indispensable, and many of the country’s best-selling bottles are blends. Poletto says that red blends represent more than the use of several grapes in a single cuvée. “The category has a complete personality of its own,” he says. “It is a style.” 

The style is wildly significant with wine producers and consumers in the United States—second only to Cabernet Sauvignon—with double-digit dollar growth (according to Nielsen’s off-premise data for the 52 weeks ending September 11, 2021) and expectations that interest isn’t waning anytime soon. “Red blends are important, and the category isn’t a fad,” says Poletto. “The data shows that it’s not going away.”

Why Consumers Love Red Blends

What’s so enticing about these wines? A crowd-pleasing taste profile, labels that are easy to understand and often attractive, and an approachable price point are all part of the magnetism of red blends. Today, no wine list or retail offering would be complete without options from the category. “We’ve come to expect product diversity in the U.S. ” says Poletto. “It’s important to give a broad selection of wines, which includes red blends.” 

These are wines that help sell themselves, thriving without a language barrier and often simply (but appealingly) labeled. “They are consumer friendly,” says Poletto. “Easy to understand and explain.” This is approachable not only for the consumer but also for sales and service staff. Wine education takes time, and for employees new to the hospitality or retail industry, red blends are a first stop in becoming familiar with one of today’s most popular categories. New hires can quickly become acclimated with the product and can pronounce, recognize, and explain red blends with comfort and ease.

“Red blends have grown into their own category, and this category has a specific taste profile,” says Poletto. “Full-bodied, juicy, fruit-forward, and rich.” He describes the best of them as powerful, luscious, and hedonistic. But there’s  no single equation to arrive at this point, which requires skilled blending by the winemaker. 

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An Exceptional Red Blend

Enter Rebellious, a red blend that stands above the rest by crafting a full-bodied, luxurious wine from superior grapes. The wine, a blend of eight varieties leading with Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon, impressed Poletto in a blind tasting. “I was impressed with how it tasted against peers,” says Poletto. “The balance was superior, the alcohol was integrated, the tannins were soft, and it was harmonious.” 

He credits this to the quality of the fruit, which was carefully selected for Rebellious. These are difficult hillside vineyards, which produce smaller, more concentrated, highly intense berries. Aromatically this promises notes of dark cherry, brown sugar, dark chocolate, and hints of exotic spice. On the palate, the lush, dark berry fruit flavors remain vibrant thanks to the bright acidity. The addition of cedar and spice flavors add to the long finish. 

While red blends share a common platform in the marketplace, they also offer bottle-by-bottle character and personality. Rebellious, for example, holds a surprise. The blend actually includes a splash of Sauvignon Blanc for bright acidity and fresh aromatics. This talking point is an interesting way to introduce Rebellious and set it apart from other wines on a list or shelf. 

“This small portion of Sauvignon Blanc acts like Viognier in the northern Rhône, softening the wine’s tannins and allowing the fruit aromas to pop,” says Poletto. He’s pointing to one of the prestigious wines of France, Côte-Rôtie, a red wine primarily made with Syrah but often blended with a bit of Viognier. 

“The grapes for this wine were planted in difficult conditions,” says Poletto. “These vines have been pushed to their limits, forced to rebel, thrive, and then succeed.” The vineyards of Rebellious are located in Sonoma and Mendocino, and vines are planted on challenging, low-nutrient, high-draining soils, forcing the true spirit of Rebellious and survival. The name is inspired by the power of Mother Nature around the world, and especially in the vineyard, where the roots of the vines must reach deep into the earth for water. 

It’s a struggle that results in an expressive wine. “I’ve tasted a lot of red blends, and this one stands out,” says Poletto.


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