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.