January 12th, 2010 – Alcohol levels in wine

This is a favourite topic of mine, and one that I was reminded off by a column in the Globe and Mail this morning.

The issue is the rising alcohol levels in many red wines, particularly those from California and Australia.  Many are now in the 14% range, and some even go as high as 15% and 16%!  They tend to be associated with incredibly ripe and fruity wines.

The column this morning took the contrarian — and increasingly popular — view that there is no need for this trend, it makes it harder to drink the wine (as you can’t drink as much) and that these wines lack complexity.

Well, I just don’t agree.  High alcohol generally means there was more (natural) sugar in the wine, which means the fruit was riper. For me, that should be a good thing — you are drinking a beverage that is made from something that was “ripe and ready”, so are tasting it in its purist form.

As for not being able to drink as much…how much do you need to drink before you get drunk anyway? Two glasses per day for men is what everyone has heard is okay; and even at 14%, if you have it over dinner, that shouldn’t be a problem. Any more than that — regardless of the alcohol — is a problem.

Personally, I have tried way too many thin, acidic, “green” (from lack of ripeness) wines, that end up tasting like wood, for one, don’t want to go back to those kind of wines.  Wine is made from fruit, and you should taste the fruit when it is ripe.

So keep going, California and Australia (and B.C., as well)!



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