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Rumblings on alcohol

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David M. Bueker

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Rumblings on alcohol

by David M. Bueker » Thu Jul 11, 2019 8:10 am

Reflecting on some commentary I read elsewhere, I was thinking about alcohol levels in wine, and how they influence what I choose to drink with my meals. With the exception of when I am grilling a burger or a steak, I essentially avoid wines that are above 14.5% alcohol. Maybe with a hearty winter stew I will break out a higher octane red wine, but that's about it.

Granted, my bias is firmly towards lower alcohol, as I focus on Riesling and Champagne for much of my drinking.

Looking at the data some more, I see that I make numerous, non-red meat meal exceptions for Ridge and Bedrock, but it's a rare event that I notice the alcohol in ether of those producers' wines.

Given the somewhat Euro-centric drinking focus on this site, I would expect some similar views, but am interested in thoughts and comments from everyone.
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Robin Garr

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Re: Rumblings on alcohol

by Robin Garr » Thu Jul 11, 2019 8:23 am

I've watched alcohol levels grow over my life in wine. I've never been quite sure whether climate change and critical preferences have worked in tandem or if one drove the other, but either way, I don't like it much. This is why I've stayed a card-carrying member of the AFWE ... yet at the same time, David, I can't deny that a well-made, balanced, high-alcohol wine from a trusted producer can break all the rules.
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John S

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Re: Rumblings on alcohol

by John S » Thu Jul 11, 2019 12:52 pm

I know some people have mentioned that with age they become more susceptible to higher alcohol wines. I do seem to have a slightly worse impact if I drink a 15% bottle compared to. 7.5% kabinett, but it isn’t a big deal yet.

I do gravitate towards wines that are not above 14%, but there really isn’t a linear relationship, there are so many other variables than just alcohol levels in terms of assessing the balance or heaviness of a wine. So it’s a general rule rather than a strict edict. But wines from certain regions (Priorat) I tend to avoid, as I often find them too heavy and big for my liking. But there are always exceptions.
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Re: Rumblings on alcohol

by Rahsaan » Thu Jul 11, 2019 2:37 pm

For me it generally follows that I like lighter-bodied elegance in my wines, so those tend to be lower alcohol.

Barolo is the big exception because the body is relatively-speaking not the richest, but the alcohols can creep past 14% and then down into the bottle I start to realize the problems with that!
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Tim York

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Re: Rumblings on alcohol

by Tim York » Thu Jul 11, 2019 3:18 pm

I'm OK with near 15% in Mediterranean rim wines for occasional drinking with winter stews and game or with spicy barbecue dishes when slightly chilled. However I think that it completely spoils, say, Bordeaux, Burgundy, N.Rhône and even Barolo, where balance and elegance should always be present.

In Roussillon, traditionally a high alcohol region, growers like Gauby are showing the way to make more digestible and lower alcohol wines with cultivation methods which achieve phenolic ripeness at lower sugar/alcohol levels.
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Bill Spohn

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Re: Rumblings on alcohol

by Bill Spohn » Thu Jul 11, 2019 10:03 pm

I dislike the heat that some (but not all) high alcohol wines as it seems to mask some of the other more subtle tastes and aromas, so I agree with David. I will say that some wines, for reasons that I do not understand, can carry amazingly high alcohol levels without it being apparent in the nose and on the tongue. If they hide it that well, I am fine with them.
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Jenise

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Re: Rumblings on alcohol

by Jenise » Fri Jul 12, 2019 12:22 pm

Bill and Robin kind of covered it for me. I will add that I moved from California to Washington just when I was leaning more Eurocentric than ever, and have had to make some palate broadening adjustments in order to enjoy the products of my state. Which isn't a financial neccessity, it's just me, out of love for my new home, wanting to be a cheerleader. I've instead become more of a crusader for lower alcohol wines among people who have largely accepted bigger/plusher as a desirable norm.

My best friend, who is a very successful wine blogger, never questioned alcohol levels until she was surprised by my criticism of it in the "bold, robust" (two of her former favorite adjectives) wines of some producers she has always admired. These wines went well with the beef/BBQ sauce/cheese diet she and her husband have generally preferred, and she wasn't sensitive to the excess. Now we open wines together fairly often and she hears me praising elegance, balance and complexity. It's had an effect. We were in Lake Chelan a few weeks ago tasting together and she was amazed to dislike all the reds at a winery whose wines she used to think were the best in the region. I was so proud of her! The wines haven't changed; she has.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Paul Winalski

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Re: Rumblings on alcohol

by Paul Winalski » Fri Jul 12, 2019 4:00 pm

Count me in with Bill and Robin. 15% is up there in the Fino Sherry range, and for my palate table wines have no business being in that territory.

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