What Is Coupage and How Is It Done?
Coupage is a French term for a winemaking technique. A good coupage can yield qualities that make excellent-quality wines from the grape blends that make it up. If you’re unfamiliar with this method, El Coto de Rioja is here to tell you what coupage is and how it’s done.
What is a coupage wine?
Wine coupage is the process of blending different grape varieties or different wines to create a new wine with certain desired characteristics. This process is generally used for producing high-quality wines to achieve a specific taste and aroma, as well as superior complexity and balance in the final wine.
Coupage is commonly performed in the production of red wines, although it can also be used to produce white and rosé wines.
Coupage can involve combining different grape varieties, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah, but it can also involve mixing wines from different vineyards or harvests to create a wine that has a similar consistency from year to year.
Types of coupage
There are different types of wine coupage, which are used to create wines with specific characteristics. Some of the most common are:
- Varietal coupage. Produced with different grape varieties, in specific proportions, to achieve a wine with certain particularities. For example, you might mix Tempranillo grapes with a Grenache grape to get a full-bodied red wine with a fruity taste.
- Regional coupage. This coupage type is made by blending different wines from the same region. This results in a wine with specific characteristics of that area. For example, a Rioja wine may be a regional coupage of Tempranillo, Grenache and other local grape varieties.
- Vintage coupage. Combining wines from different harvests produces a more balanced and complex wine. Young wines are blended with older ones to create a wine featuring the freshness of the young one with the depth and complexity of the old one.
- Barrel coupage. This type of coupage is made by mixing wines that have been aged in different types of barrels, such as French or American oak. This can add different taste and aroma notes to the wine.
These are just a few examples of the types of coupage that can be produced. Combining different grape varieties, harvests and wine ageing processes can yield a wide variety of wines with unique properties.
How do you do coupage?
The coupage process is carried out by a winemaker, who uses his or her experience and knowledge of the vine to determine the combination of grapes or wines that will produce the desired taste and aroma. The winemaker can mix the wines in different proportions and taste them until the perfect combination is found.
The aim of coupage is to create a blend that has unique and desirable characteristics that can’t be achieved with a single wine. It’s a vital process for producing high-quality wines and it takes years of experience and skill to reach the most remarkable grape blends.
Coupage is a technique that can also be used as a tool to create consistent wines every year, even if the weather conditions change and the grapes have different characteristics at each harvest.
As we’ve outlined, coupage is the process of mixing wines of different varieties, vineyards or vintages to produce a final wine with a unique taste and aroma. A basic process for producing a wine coupage might involve:
- Selecting the base wines. The wines of different varieties, vineyards or vintages that will go through the blending process. These wines are previously tested and assessed to determine their organoleptic characteristics, such as taste, aroma, acidity, body and balance.
- Blending the base wines. Once selected, they are combined in a specific proportion to create the final wine. The proportion of each base wine will vary depending on the style and taste sought.
- Tasting and final touches. If the wine does not have the desired taste, aroma or balance, additional changes can be made by mixing different amounts of the base wines.
- Ageing. Once the optimal final wine is achieved, it undergoes an ageing process. Depending on the type of wine and the desired taste, it can be aged in oak barrels, stainless-steel tanks or in bottles.
- Bottling. The wine is bottled and labelled with information about the coupage, including the grape varieties used, the proportion of each base wine and the vintage.
Have you tried a wine coupage? Did you know that El Coto Blanco is a varietal coupage of Viura, Verdejo and Sauvignon Blanc?
If you want to know more about the grapes we use to make El Coto de Rioja wines, check out our article on white grapes. Find out more about the Chardonnay, Viura and Sauvignon Blanc varieties here.
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