Are you drinking more wines with lower alcohol levels, say 14.5% or less? I’m beginning to wonder if the pendulum is beginning to swing away from high alcohol wines. Consider these stories from just the last two weeks.
First, there is this week’s news story about a third-generation Sacramento wine retailer refusing to sell wines with alcohol levels above 14.5%. Corti Brothers are respected experts on the foods and wines of Italy, and it’s curious to see this move from a major local retailer. I’m interested to see if this becomes a permanent policy.
- The L.A. International Wine Competition,
- The Orange County Fair, and
- The Dallas Morning News wine Competition.
Toucan’s alcohol level? About 14.5%! One of the lowest levels in the Zin category. (Buy it here, $34)…
High alcohol wines (over 14.5%) have grown in popularity for 15 years. New genetic break-throughs have resulted in yeasts that can withstand high alcohol levels in order to complete the fermentation of very ripe fruit with high sugar levels. Used to be, un-manipulated yeast strains would die once alcohol exceeded much more than 14%. And very ripe grapes produce massive wines with gobs of fruit and alcohol that require lots of new oak to balance the fruit flavors.
Such "Schwarzennegger" wines easily elbow their way past more elegant wines if tasted one-after-another without the benefit of food or contemplation! Detractors will say they taste amazingly similar, whether produced in Chile, Spain, France or California. That is, they lose their sense of place. And that is something a lot of wine drinkers seem to be coming back to.
But fans of the massive wines say this is a new area of winemaking that must be explored. They point out that wine critics give such wines their highest ratings (see tasting process described above). And they argue that these muscle-bound wines have a hugely loyal (and largely young) fan base, and are the the wines we’re likely to see on the shelves of the future.
Your Input Needed!
What do you think about this possible trend toward lower alcohol wines with a distinct sense of their place of origin? Does the thought maky you happy? Dissapointed?
Dave Chambers, Wine Merchant
"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it may be necessary from time to time to give a stupid or misinformed beholder a black eye."
– Miss Piggy
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