Bucking the trend of high-alcohol wines
on 15/06/11 at 10:20 amWine
‘Someone is trying to kill California wine,” the authoritative Connoisseur’s Guide to California Wine wailed this month. Publisher Charles Olken warned in the magazine’s blog of a sweeping plague of “food wines,” as if it were a travesty that people might actually consume wine with dinner. “Those who argue that California wine is overripe, over-oaked, too high in alcohol have failed to realize that the alternative is worse,” he wrote.
Now, overripe, over-oaked, high-alcohol wines are not exclusive to California. But the Golden State has become the poster child for that style of wine. Olken was reacting to a very real trend against the style — especially against rising alcohol levels. It’s not a new temperance movement, with Carrie Nation wielding her ax and Bible. Yet the anti-alcohol sentiment is real. It is changing the way we think about wine and the way wine is made.
If you’ve been a wine drinker long enough, you’ve probably noticed wines breaking the 14, 15, even 16 percent level of alcohol, when just two decades ago the average was more like 13 percent. That has some wine lovers complaining that these bodybuilder wines are clumsy and unbalanced, difficult to drink with dinner and incapable of aging well in the cellar.