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Re: WARNING: Rant ahead. Pissed-off with high-alcohol wines?

by Jeff Yeast » Tue Nov 14, 2006 8:54 pm

Bob Ross wrote:Ogden Nash gave me a good way to decide if I can have a third glass of wine, almost as good as reading the alcoholic number:

A tutor who tooted a flute

Tried to teach two tooters to toot

Said the two to the tutor

“Is it harder to toot, or....

To tutor two tooters to toot?"


Rarely a problem after one glass, sometimes a problem after two glass, always a problem after three glasses.


That's fantastic, thanks! :lol:
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Re: WARNING: Rant ahead. Pissed-off with high-alcohol wines?

by Rod Miller » Wed Nov 15, 2006 12:19 am

The reason there are many high alch. wines is that newer wine drinkers are more likely to like a high alch. wine than a high acid wine. The natural taste preference of folks is sweetness over sour. Low alch wines are likely high acid wines. Give in, high acid wines are old fashioned. What makes great wine is an integration of flavors and characteristics not high acid (taste). Note: there can be a - or + 1% variation in the actual alch. content over what is marked on the label. The terrior of a hot climate is a lower acid wine. I would much rather drink a wine where I can taste the fruit than wait 10 years to taste an acid bomb. I hate waiting 10 years for anything that I want to do.
May all beings find happiness and the causes of happiness!!!!
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Re: WARNING: Rant ahead. Pissed-off with high-alcohol wines?

by Ian Sutton » Wed Nov 15, 2006 1:05 pm

Rod Miller wrote:The reason there are many high alch. wines is that newer wine drinkers are more likely to like a high alch. wine than a high acid wine. The natural taste preference of folks is sweetness over sour. Low alch wines are likely high acid wines. Give in, high acid wines are old fashioned. What makes great wine is an integration of flavors and characteristics not high acid (taste). Note: there can be a - or + 1% variation in the actual alch. content over what is marked on the label. The terrior of a hot climate is a lower acid wine. I would much rather drink a wine where I can taste the fruit than wait 10 years to taste an acid bomb. I hate waiting 10 years for anything that I want to do.


Interesting post Rod.

It highlights a trend a few people are suggesting is occurring. Some of the rise of the big, intense, fruity wines is put down to that immediacy of enjoyment. They may last, but that's not the point - they're designed as intensely fruited wines to drink now. Some people dismiss them, because they're not styled for long ageing, but if they're going to dismiss them, better if they've tasted a number and have yet to enjoy any of them. It's also been argued that there's a usual trend from bigger fruitier wines for people starting to get into wine, with many moving to more structured wines over time. I'm not sure this as true as it was, with in particular the Parker / WA / WS influence supporting this more immediate style more than previous critics.

My preferences are more to the other end of the scale, where those acid & tannin monsters soften with age, to the point that they throw off the harshness and emerge with style and great complexity (sometimes!). The previously harsh acid softens to provide refreshment and the aged flavours are something you don't get in young wines. I still drink and enjoy younger wines and wouldn't want to restrict myself solely to older wines.

Neither preference is "right" and there are plenty of levels in between, but it's good to seek the opportunity to taste both extremes. It's even possible to like and enjoy both extremes, choosing a wine that's appropriate for the food on the table and the mood you find yourself in. It certainly makes for wide range of styles, which is one of the rewarding aspects of the hobby.

regards

Ian

p.s. one way round having to wait is to buy the wine mature. These can typically be quite expensive, but a smart operator can seek out some stunning bargains in specialist wine shops, but more likely at auction. Research well and use wine-searcher.com to compare market prices. The best advice I can give for auctions, is to look for provincial auctions as well as the big auction houses. Some of these provincial auctions fall 'under the radar' of many collectors and bargains can be had at a quarter of the retail price if you're canny (and if you're not, you could pay too much!).
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Re: WARNING: Rant ahead. Pissed-off with high-alcohol wines?

by JC (NC) » Wed Nov 15, 2006 2:30 pm

One of the few wines with 16% abv that did not seem hot to me was the Biale Black Chicken Zinfandel. Occasionally I've encountered other wines with over 15% alcohol by volume that seemed balanced. Still, one of the things I appreciate about German Riesling is that you can usually have several glasses without worrying about its consequences. Often they come in at 7% or 8%. (P.S. I think several German beers affect me more than a couple glasses of Riesling).
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Re: WARNING: Rant ahead. Pissed-off with high-alcohol wines?

by Oliver McCrum » Wed Nov 15, 2006 2:32 pm

Rod Miller wrote:The reason there are many high alch. wines is that newer wine drinkers are more likely to like a high alch. wine than a high acid wine. The natural taste preference of folks is sweetness over sour. Low alch wines are likely high acid wines. Give in, high acid wines are old fashioned. What makes great wine is an integration of flavors and characteristics not high acid (taste). Note: there can be a - or + 1% variation in the actual alch. content over what is marked on the label. The terrior of a hot climate is a lower acid wine. I would much rather drink a wine where I can taste the fruit than wait 10 years to taste an acid bomb. I hate waiting 10 years for anything that I want to do.


This is a false choice, 'high acid vs big fruit.' It's a continuum. Some of us like wines with fresh-fruit flavors instead of cooked/dried-fruit flavors, and the lively acidity goes better with food, IMO.

Acid doesn't diminish with age the way that tannins do, so I wouldn't buy wines that you find acidic in the hope that they will get appreciably 'softer.'
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Re: WARNING: Rant ahead. Pissed-off with high-alcohol wines?

by Ian Sutton » Wed Nov 15, 2006 3:29 pm

Oliver McCrum wrote:Acid doesn't diminish with age the way that tannins do, so I wouldn't buy wines that you find acidic in the hope that they will get appreciably 'softer.'

Oliver
I'll be contrary I'm afraid.

My understanding is that although they don't diminish in amount, they do indeed soften with age.

If something is fiercely acidic, that acidity won't go away, but it can soften to to point it is refreshing rather than (say) biting. Likewise wines that have low acidity can end up flabby as what little acidity they have softens to the point where it's overwhelmed.

regards

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Re: WARNING: Rant ahead. Pissed-off with high-alcohol wines?

by Hoke » Wed Nov 15, 2006 3:44 pm

Rod Miller wrote:The reason there are many high alch. wines is that newer wine drinkers are more likely to like a high alch. wine than a high acid wine. The natural taste preference of folks is sweetness over sour. Low alch wines are likely high acid wines. Give in, high acid wines are old fashioned. What makes great wine is an integration of flavors and characteristics not high acid (taste). Note: there can be a - or + 1% variation in the actual alch. content over what is marked on the label. The terrior of a hot climate is a lower acid wine. I would much rather drink a wine where I can taste the fruit than wait 10 years to taste an acid bomb. I hate waiting 10 years for anything that I want to do.


Aha! Methinks there is a troll here.

Okay, I'll play for a while.

While I accept your initial sentence, Rod, I pretty much have to reject, or pick apart in tiny little shredded detail everything else. Lot of gross generalizations in there, and many don't hold water.

The natural taste preference of folks is sweet over sour? Really? Maybe the folks you hang out with like sweet wines over "sour" (by which I'm assuming you equate acidity with sourness AND lack of sugar, which is kind of interesting), but a lot of wine drinkers I know don't necessarily care for sweet wines, and many of them actively reject wines which might contain any sort of sweetness. And that's even with some new wine drinkers, Rod.

"Give in, high alch. wines are old fashioned." That's rather a remarkable thing to say, Rod. Unless, of course, you're just trolling, which you are. So let's not even discuss something not worth discussing. Stop being so silly. You can do better than that.

"What makes great wine is an integration of flavors and characteristics not high acid (taste)." Okay, I'm confused by this, Rod. I agree with the basic statement about integration (if by integration, you are referring to balance), but I'm not sure I follow your logic here, that the alternative is to have a "high acid (taste)...bomb". Huh? That's a false juxtaposition of choices. I don't believe anyone has advocated an acidic monster lacking all other attributes as the ideal wine. Red herring argument. Cunning though: you start off with a reasonable statement and then go off into strange country with it.

"I would much rather drink a wine where I can taste the fruit than wait 10 years to taste an acid bomb. I hate waiting 10 years for anything that I want to do." Again, Rod, you're making some quantum leaps here that aren't justified. Who would want a wine that is so acidic you can't taste the fruit? Who believes (other than you, apparently) that acidity precludes fruit? I certainly don't. Who believes in the necessity of waiting ten years? Some do, sure, but the statistics indicate most wine drinkers are drinking their wine within just a few hours of purchase. It's only the tiniest minority that cellar their wines for years.

And once again, why does the presence of acidity require ten years aging? Is the acid disappearing during that ten years? What do you think is happening in the bottle anyway? Nope, that's just an overall puzzling thing to say, Rod.

You're throwing out some false dichotomies, and then picking one over the other. If you'd simply stuck with your initial statement, and left it right there, your post would have been excellent, and provocative. As it is, it's provocative, but foolish.

Still, keep trying. Maybe you'll do better next time. :wink:
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Re: WARNING: Rant ahead. Pissed-off with high-alcohol wines?

by JoePerry » Wed Nov 15, 2006 4:14 pm

Welcome, Rod!

Hoke just gave you the traditional baptism by fire, but he's really a cuddly lovable guy.

He does, however, make some good points - the most important being that one should beware sweeping generalizations among uber geeks like us.

Best,
Joe
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Re: WARNING: Rant ahead. Pissed-off with high-alcohol wines?

by Thomas » Wed Nov 15, 2006 5:00 pm

I'm glad I held off on responding to Rod's troll. Thanks Hoke--I couldna said it better. In fact, what I had wanted to reply probably would have started a flame war.

Let me add that I believe it's - or + 1.5% on the alc. leeway.
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Re: WARNING: Rant ahead. Pissed-off with high-alcohol wines?

by Oliver McCrum » Wed Nov 15, 2006 9:29 pm

Thomas,

It's both; 1% leeway over 14%, 1.5% under (hence so many wines saying '12.5%').
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Re: WARNING: Rant ahead. Pissed-off with high-alcohol wines?

by Oliver McCrum » Wed Nov 15, 2006 9:38 pm

Ian Sutton wrote:
Oliver McCrum wrote:Acid doesn't diminish with age the way that tannins do, so I wouldn't buy wines that you find acidic in the hope that they will get appreciably 'softer.'

Oliver
I'll be contrary I'm afraid.

My understanding is that although they don't diminish in amount, they do indeed soften with age.

If something is fiercely acidic, that acidity won't go away, but it can soften to to point it is refreshing rather than (say) biting. Likewise wines that have low acidity can end up flabby as what little acidity they have softens to the point where it's overwhelmed.

regards

Ian


Acidity can indeed be lost during aging: '...aging can induce small losses in total acidity.' Wine Science, Jackson

- but not to anything like the extent that tannins can, hence my comment. The white wines with the highest acidity are very often bottled with some residual sweetness, which changes the equation completely as the perception of sweetness changes over time, but I don't know of any conventional examples of buying dry white or red wines in the hope that they will become less acidic.

The dry white wines that I can think of with high acidity, such as Muscadet and Sancerre, are generally drunk young.
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Re: WARNING: Rant ahead. Pissed-off with high-alcohol wines?

by Rahsaan » Wed Nov 15, 2006 10:32 pm

The white wines with the highest acidity are very often bottled with some residual sweetness, which changes the equation completely as the perception of sweetness changes over time, but I don't know of any conventional examples of buying dry white or red wines in the hope that they will become less acidic.


I get your general point. But what about Alsatian riesling?
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Re: WARNING: Rant ahead. Pissed-off with high-alcohol wines?

by Thomas » Wed Nov 15, 2006 10:38 pm

Rahsaan wrote:
The white wines with the highest acidity are very often bottled with some residual sweetness, which changes the equation completely as the perception of sweetness changes over time, but I don't know of any conventional examples of buying dry white or red wines in the hope that they will become less acidic.


I get your general point. But what about Alsatian riesling?


Rahsaan,

I'm not sure what your question is, but if my guess is correct, you refer to so-called dry wines that mellow over time. I can say that in the past, I have tested a few "dry" Alsatian Rieslings and the tests showed measurable r.s. and many of them were quite low in acidity.
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Re: WARNING: Rant ahead. Pissed-off with high-alcohol wines?

by Rahsaan » Wed Nov 15, 2006 10:44 pm

but if my guess is correct, you refer to so-called dry wines that mellow over time. I can say that in the past, I have tested a few "dry" Alsatian Rieslings and the tests showed measurable r.s. and many of them were quite low in acidity.


Interesting.

I'm no expert on Alsace, but was thinking primarily of Trimbach, where the wines are so lean, seemingly-acidic, and void of flavors when young, but then obviously blossom and age well.
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Re: WARNING: Rant ahead. Pissed-off with high-alcohol wines?

by Thomas » Wed Nov 15, 2006 10:56 pm

Rahsaan wrote:
but if my guess is correct, you refer to so-called dry wines that mellow over time. I can say that in the past, I have tested a few "dry" Alsatian Rieslings and the tests showed measurable r.s. and many of them were quite low in acidity.


Interesting.

I'm no expert on Alsace, but was thinking primarily of Trimbach, where the wines are so lean, seemingly-acidic, and void of flavors when young, but then obviously blossom and age well.


When I say "low in acid" it is relative to Rieslings of other regions. By any standards, they'd probably be considered high acid wines. But I particularly remember some of the Rieslings registering near 1% r.s., 13.5% alc. acids, I think, around 3/4 %, have no recollection of the pH, which is an important stat when it comes to acidity. They aren't bad stats, but certainly the r.s. was there and it must have an impact on the taste profile after aging.

You know, there isn't enough known about the aging process to make definitive statements, but it certainly seems that changes toward mellowing take place. I like to think of it as melding--all those components maybe get to know one another over all that time in the bottle and they decide to work together to create a more rounded palate feel.

Doesn't that sound so damned pleasant? Almost like the answer to "why can't we all get along?"
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Re: WARNING: Rant ahead. Pissed-off with high-alcohol wines?

by Victorwine » Wed Nov 15, 2006 11:05 pm

I think we should clear up one thing regarding alcohol and wine. Alcohol is no doubt the component which gives the wine its “kick” and vinous character (makes it smell and taste like “wine”). (As others had stated, IMO a wine that shows “too much” of any one component is an unbalanced wine). Besides providing the “kick” it also gives the wine texture, body, mouth-feel, or “density” (generally; low alcohol wines are light-bodied, and higher alcohol wines are full-bodied). It can also add roundness of flavor, sweetness, and a certain chemical and physical stability to a wine. The primary alcohol is ethyl alcohol or ethanol, but there are dozens of other so called “higher” alcohols (even though these are only found in minute quantities), play an active role in ester formation and provide hundreds of flavors.

Salute
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Re: WARNING: Rant ahead. Pissed-off with high-alcohol wines?

by Oliver McCrum » Thu Nov 16, 2006 4:39 am

Rahsaan wrote:
The white wines with the highest acidity are very often bottled with some residual sweetness, which changes the equation completely as the perception of sweetness changes over time, but I don't know of any conventional examples of buying dry white or red wines in the hope that they will become less acidic.


I get your general point. But what about Alsatian riesling?


Leaving aside the sad fact that there don't seem to be many producers making the old-style dry wines in Alsace these days, I suppose the point is that acidity has to be balanced with something (RS, dry extract for example) for the wine to be worth cellaring. Oddly enough the only wine I can think of that might be an exception is old-style Hunter dry semillon, which were brutal when young.

I think what I meant in the first place was that the tannins change into other substances or physically fall out of the wine. Some acid can crystallise, removing itself from the wine, but not very much. So it's still there in some form. (An actual chemist may want to correct me here.)
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Re: WARNING: Rant ahead. Pissed-off with high-alcohol wines?

by Covert » Thu Nov 16, 2006 6:27 am

Bruce Hayes wrote: What they neglected to mention was the stunning (to me) 15.5 per cent alchohol level!!


15.5% is really high. Strange it wouldn't be mentioned in a write-up.

How much of the problem is from winemaking intention versus climate change? In many similar cases, my guess is if grapes were picked earlier to avoid such high sugar ripeness the phenolic ripeness would suffer.

My rant is with the human population which at large still believes there isn't a problem with over population and resultant pollution in the atmosphere. I read that half the people in the world don't have potable water to drink. I need the high alcohol to free my mind from thinking about stuff like that.
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Re: WARNING: Rant ahead. Pissed-off with high-alcohol wines?

by jamiegoode » Thu Nov 16, 2006 8:07 am

Did my first sweet spot tasting with Clark Smith this week - this is where you taste the same wine at different alcohol levels (reverse osmosis is used to reduce the alcohol) - did you know that a substantial portion of premium california wines have their alcohol levels adjusted downwards?

Even quite small changes in the alcohol have profound effects on the sensory characteristics of the wine. I reckon a lot of these 14.5-15% wines would be much, much nicer at 13.5%.
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Re: WARNING: Rant ahead. Pissed-off with high-alcohol wines?

by Howie Hart » Thu Nov 16, 2006 9:38 am

Covert wrote:.....In many similar cases, my guess is if grapes were picked earlier to avoid such high sugar ripeness the phenolic ripeness would suffer.....
That would be true, however, I believe grape growers receive a premiium for higher sugar content. While cases have been made against over cropping (obtaining large tons per acre ratios) I believe the reverse may be true in some of these cases. If more grapes bunches were allowed to grow, a proper balance between sugar content and phenolic ripeness could be obtained, and I believe they have a good handle on this in Bordeaux, and France in general.
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Re: WARNING: Rant ahead. Pissed-off with high-alcohol wines?

by Thomas » Thu Nov 16, 2006 10:25 am

jamiegoode wrote:Did my first sweet spot tasting with Clark Smith this week - this is where you taste the same wine at different alcohol levels (reverse osmosis is used to reduce the alcohol) - did you know that a substantial portion of premium california wines have their alcohol levels adjusted downwards?

Even quite small changes in the alcohol have profound effects on the sensory characteristics of the wine. I reckon a lot of these 14.5-15% wines would be much, much nicer at 13.5%.


Jamie,

You just reckon--I'm convinced. ;)

These days I find myself actively avoiding buying wines that claim above 13.5 on the label. Maybe it's because I am growing older and don't want all that alcohol, but I still like to think that I have a somewhat discerning palate, and high alcohol is usually accompanied by a lot of other stuff about the wine that turns me off. Usually--not always--but a high percentage.

Your reference to the osmosis and the lowering of already high alcohol is another reason I don't like a lot of those wines. By the time I taste them they seem to have been used up by processing.
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Re: WARNING: Rant ahead. Pissed-off with high-alcohol wines?

by Thomas » Thu Nov 16, 2006 10:29 am

Howie Hart wrote:
Covert wrote:.....In many similar cases, my guess is if grapes were picked earlier to avoid such high sugar ripeness the phenolic ripeness would suffer.....
That would be true, however, I believe grape growers receive a premiium for higher sugar content. While cases have been made against over cropping (obtaining large tons per acre ratios) I believe the reverse may be true in some of these cases. If more grapes bunches were allowed to grow, a proper balance between sugar content and phenolic ripeness could be obtained, and I believe they have a good handle on this in Bordeaux, and France in general.


Howie,

The days of premium paid for higher sugar have just about faded. The problem: these days, in CA at least, the premium is on higher concentration, which includes increased sugar by volume, but robs the grower of weight by forcing dehydration on the crop. Big issue on the Left Coast.
Last edited by Thomas on Thu Nov 16, 2006 10:29 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: WARNING: Rant ahead. Pissed-off with high-alcohol wines?

by Carl Eppig » Thu Nov 16, 2006 10:29 am

Last night I had half of a bottle of '01 Tobin James Refosco with a very intense (not hot or overly spicy) Greek Beef stew. They went very well together. The wine weighed in at 15.3%. Refosco is very high in acid, and the wine was balanced and not hot at all.
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Re: WARNING: Rant ahead. Pissed-off with high-alcohol wines?

by Jenise » Thu Nov 16, 2006 1:55 pm

These days I find myself actively avoiding buying wines that claim above 13.5 on the label.

A well-known Seattle email-only retailer announced last year that he was going to start a Twelve and a Half Club, which was named after the percent alcohol he would like to see all wines at or below. The program never got off the ground--too few qualifying wines he said, at least without sending out nothing riesling every month.
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