The Center for Wine Economics released a report of a recent study on the sugar levels of wine grapes in California, titled “Too Much of a Good Thing? Causes and Consequences of Increases in Sugar Content of California Wine Grapes.” Not sure how new this news is, but it was new to me so I’m yappin’ about it!
While that title of the report doesn’t sound particularly fascinating, the report’s conclusions are – if you’re a wine geek, that is, and if you’re a fan of California fine wine and have ever wondered why alcohol levels seem to be kind of high in the premium vino coming out of that state. According to the report, it’s not just your imagination – wine grapes in CA have indeed been getting riper over the last twenty years, which translates into higher booze levels, with white grapes bearing the brunt of the increase:
“The data show that the average alcohol percentage increased by 0.30 percent, with a larger increase for white wine (0.38 percent) than for red wine (0.25 percent). This increase in alcohol percentage is consistent with an increase in the sugar content of the grapes used to make that wine of 0.55 degrees Brix, on average.”
That sugar measurement might look small, but according to the report it’s a “substantial” increase, and it’s that rise in sugar levels that is making CA wines a bit more… busty than they’ve been in the past (I imagine if you were used to drinking CA wine from 20 years ago, drank too much, passed out and pulled a Rip Van Winkle, upon waking up in 2011 you’d be forgiven for thinking that during your extended slumber your fave CA Cab had undergone the vinous equivalent of a boob job). What this study does that is so fascinating is this: it puts data and critical thinking behind something that many CA wine drinkers may have already suspected… CA fine wines are getting boozier, and it might be the result of the fine wine market…