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Blends Can Be Better

Syrah, grenache and mourvedre make a great team

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Many of the world's most-intriguing wines are blends of different grapes. While some varieties, like pinot noir, work best on their own, the same can't be said for others, like cabernet and merlot, which reach their apex when they come together in the great growths of Bordeaux.

While syrah can stand alone, when blended with grenache and mourvedre, it can achieve a beauty that's greater than the sum of the parts. That's the case with the wines of the southern Rhone, and as this tasting shows, the formula travels well.

2009 Dama Nation Red, $30

The breakdown in this Washington red is 55 percent grenache, 23 percent syrah and 22 percent mourvedre. There's a light jamminess to the aromas that are a mix of dark raspberry, boysenberry and strawberry, which is backed by touches of mocha, licorice and dried herb. Creamy berry flavors come through on the palate of this opulent wine, along with well-integrated toasty oak, leather and cola. It's all nicely balanced by racy acidity on the finish.

2008 Domaine Grand Veneur Cotes-du-Rhone, Les Champauvins, $20

Grenache (at 70 percent) dominates this blend, with smaller doses of syrah and mourvedre. On the nose, there's a combo of raspberry and cherry liqueur, marked by anise, earth and spice. Black pepper and game accents color the deep berry flavors on this well-balanced wine. The finish is round and ripe.

2010 Yalumba, The Strapper GSM, $16.99

This Aussie entry from Barossa is almost equal parts grenache, syrah and mataro (aka mourvedre). It leads off with bright blueberry aromas colored by vanilla and spice. Smooth tannins and tart cherry come through on the supple finish. This is a great buy for a beautifully balanced blend.