Articles Tagged high alcohol wine
With all my talk recently about alcohol not being anywhere near as important factor in quality wine as overall balance, I asked myself a tough question in the wake of that talk, and I couldn’t come up with a good answer.
When was the last time you’ve had a wine that was over 16% alcohol that seemed balanced?
Personally, I drew a total blank.
There literally isn’t one dry, still wine (non-fortified… Ports for example are definitely not included in this mini-analysis) I can recall that clocked in above 16% abv that on the whole felt compellingly balanced to me.
Anyone? Buehler? Buehler???
Of course, part of the reason for this is likely due to the fact that I just don’t record abv when I review wines… but I might starting doing exactly that, if only for experimental and self-education purposes. And the number of 16%+ abv still wines out there probably isn’t all that large, the majority probably clocking in somewhere between 12% and 15% abv when you’re talking still, dry fine wines. But having said that…
While I’ve also had plenty of juice in the 15%+ range that were great – big wines, no doubt, but also damn good ones – of the wines that I can recall that clocked in somewhere in 16%+ booziness range, none of them were great, balanced offerings. In fact, most of them were way off the mark when it comes to balance; boozy, raisined, overly pruney, and a chore to drink.
So I’m hereby amending my previous diatribe, adding that there may actually be logical limits to balance. And while I won’t ever go on record as saying that great, balanced still wines can’t be made in that abv range, I sure as hell think it makes the job of achieving greatness that much harder.
What about you? Have you had a dry wine over 16% abv that you thought was balanced? Shout ‘em out!
That’s the short version.
Here’s the slightly longer version:
Seriously, the debate (10 million plus search results, and counting!) over the perceived consumer trend towards lower alcohol wines (I’ve yet to see any convincing, hard data supporting this claim, by the way, in terms of any significant percentage shift of sales towards lower abv wines specifically because they’re lower abv wines) tells us precisely bupkis about the future of fine wine purchases.
We live in the golden age of consumer choice when it comes to fine wine sales, with more wine available of higher quality than at probably any other time in human history. If there’s a shift in U.S. wine consumer preferences, let’s hope the continuing democratization of that tastemaker opinion leads it towards favoring balanced wines, wines that taste great at 16% abv or 8% abv. (I’ve had wines that do, at both abv points, by the way).
There’s certainly research on public opinion seemingly favoring low alcohol wines, yes, and for sure there’s a shift in tastemaker opinion towards lower abv wines (to the point where some consider it “a mistake that is not recognized by most wine critics”), all of which eventually will probably sway a small percentage of the market (the tiney percentage that follows these things) towards buying wines with more restrained alcohol levels. But high abv wines – just like low ones – are not going away anytime soon. Debating whether or not one is superior to the other is a waste of time.
I’d rather spend that time drinking a balanced wine, despite the fact that even that pursuit is under attack already. Or several of them, actually, all finding their vinous fulcrum points at various places along the continuum of fruitiness, raciness, booze, grip, and what-have-you. Because like porn, we know balance when we encounter it, and we know when it’s poor, decent, or extraordinary attempt (okay, so the porn comparison doesn’t quite go the whole distance here…). No two wines are going to achieve that true balance in quite the same way, and it’s in the encountering of those differences where we’ll find some of the most potent spells in all of the slightly-mad but thoroughly-magical bottled world we call fine wine.
The rage is relentless
We need a movement with a quickness
You are the witness of change
And to counteract
We gotta take the power back
Sometimes I wonder if the Internet should have a theme song. I’d nominate Rage Against The Machine’s Take The Power Back, given the possibilities of democratization that the connected economy presents to us nearly every day.
That’s an overly-dramatic introduction to a couple of on-line surveys… but what the hell, why be afraid to revel in our time, right?
Anyway… frequent 1WineDude readers will know my good buddy (and uber wine-geek) Jason Whiteside, who is currently finishing up the challenging WSET Diploma program (the stepping-stone into Master of Wine qualification). Jason is taking on a bit of wine consumer research as part of his WSET work, and he needs your help!
Below you will find links to two (very, very quick) surveys that Jason is running to collect consumer’s views on two hot topics in the wine world. The first, rising alcohol levels, is a topic that generates just about as much passion as any other being discussed around wine today. The second is a more specific exploration into what wine consumers think about Sauvignon Blanc (which surprisingly also brings out strong opinions among true wine geeks).
I’ll defer to Jason to introduce the surveys:
“These surveys represent a small amount of consumer research, which is being done for the WSET Diploma (the Diploma is divided into six learning Units, and one of them is on “The Business of Wine”). Both surveys are about ten questions each, and should take less than three minutes to complete. Consumer preference doesn’t garner the attention that Wine Critic preference does, but surveys like this can help swing the power back to the people. Thank you very much for your time in filling out the surveys. Your answers will remain confidential; even I will not be able to see who answered what.”
The results will be published in a future 1WineDude article, so do us a favor and take 5 minutes to tell us your thoughts!
Have your say about Alcohol Levels and Wine:
Tell us what you think about White Wine and Sauvignon Blanc: