It took until the middle of July, but it seems (I don’t want to jinx us) that summer has arrived in the Yukon!

The past two weekends have actually been HOT, and I’ve been lucky enough to spend two Saturdays nights kayaking, swimming and sitting outside with friends, enjoying picnic dinners and treats off an open fire.

I’ve also been tasting a number of moderately priced reds, from both South America (a few additions to the tasting from last several columns), as well as from that under-represented emerging wine force, Portugal, and my favourite, Italy!

First, from Chile, a 2011 Cono Sur Tocornal ($18.70 at the YLC), a cabernet sauvignon/merlot blend from the Central Valley of Chile.

In my book, it also gets bonus points for coming in a 1.5 litre bottle, which means that you are paying the equivalent of $9.35 for a regular size wine bottle, a deal that is pretty hard to beat!

Blending the juice of cabernet sauvignon and merlot grape juices to make a tasty red wine is a 1,000-plus-year-old tradition that originated in France. The great wines of the Bordeaux region of west central France are largely comprised of a mixes of the juices of these two grapes.

In Bordeaux, they might also include the juice of other red wine grapes, such as cabernet franc, and in Australia they might substitute shiraz grape juice for the merlot.

The objective of blending the juice of different grapes is to bring the different taste qualities of the two or more grape juices to add depth and complexity to the wine.

In the case of the Cono Sur Tocornal, the merlot grape juice imparts softer, rich fruit notes to both the bouquet (smell) and the taste of the wine, while the cabernet sauvignon adds strength and force to the taste.

The cabernet grape skins add tannins to the blends (giving that slight roughness you feel on your tongue, and perhaps the back of your throat).

The combination of these two taste sensations tends to complement grilled or roast red meats, with the fruitiness of the merlot working with the rich juiciness of a burger and the accompanying ketchup that I top mine with, while the roughness and body of the cabernet seems to work with the charred outside of the meat, and also wash away the fatty richness that fills my mouth when I bite into the burger or steak.

The Trapiche Astica merlot/malbec 2011 ($10.70) from the Mendoza region of Argentina works very much the same way.

Again the merlot imparts the fruity notes to the blend, where in this case the malbec takes on the role of the cabernet sauvignon from the first wine, adding stronger, more robust notes.

Malbec, as I have mentioned in other articles, is another grape originally from the Bordeaux region, and would have traditionally been blended with merlot or other Bordeaux red wine grapes, when it was grown there several hundred years ago.

After several decades of California leading the wine world trend of producing single grape wines such as pure cabernet sauvignons and merlots, and Australia imitating with pure shirazes, as well as cabs and merlots, today vintners in many countries are looking at blending traditions that date back hundreds of years from France and Italy, or other parts of Europe, to produce wines that mix two or more grapes together.

Portugal is adopting the same approach, but taking two of their own traditional grapes to make the TR Vista 2008 Tinta Roriz ($13.10), from the Beiras region of central Portugal.

In this case, they have taken the touriga nacional, the premium grape that is traditionally used in Portugal in the production of their deservedly famous Port wines, and blended it with tinta roriz, another Portuese/Spanish region red wine grape.

The same grape is known as tempranillo, in Spain. In this 15 percent/85 percent blend (respectively), the touriga nacional plays the role of the cabernet sauvignon, providing the strong tannins and hints of tobacco, while the tinta roriz brings the red cherry fruity notes to the blends. To my mind, the mix really works.

All three of these wines are winners, and I have been drawing on them regularly to host barbecues out at my lakeside cabin. They are all excellent values, and well worth a try.

Email me at decisionsyukon@gmail.com and let me know what you think if you try any of them, or let me know if you have wine questions, or ideas for an article that you would like me to tackle.

Cheers!