Skip to comments.US Winemakers Seek To Reduce Alcohol Content
Posted on 01/10/2008 7:20:53 PM PST by blam
US winemakers seek to reduce alcohol content
By Tom Leonard, in New York
Last Updated: 2:47am GMT 11/01/2008
Winemakers in California are attempting to reduce the alcohol level in their notoriously powerful reds and whites.
Californian "monster" wines regularly contain 15% vol alcohol and some are as high as 17%, alarming some of their own producers despite the praise of critics.
The winemakers have responded by picking grapes earlier and employing other tactics designed to produce the more "balanced", lower alcohol wines that are popular in Europe.
They say the move has in part been prompted by demand from American restaurants, which often hire European-trained sommeliers who want lighter wines.
Adam Tolmach, one of the state's most celebrated winemakers, said that, at 15% or higher, the alcohol content of his wines was too high.
Mr Tolmach, who has produced Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah wines from his Ojai vineyard since 1983, admitted they had become so powerful he had stopped drinking them.
He told the Los Angeles Times: "We lost our rudder when we went for ever bolder, riper flavours. We have to do the right thing."
He is far from alone. Joe Davis, the owner of the Arcadian Winery, told the newspaper: "Take any 20 winemakers and they are all thinking about alcohol levels." Ray Coursen, a Napa Valley winemaker, said it was "very easy" to make wines of up to 16.4%
He said it was impossible for two people to share a bottle over dinner as the wines overwhelmed the meal.
Mr Tolmach and some of his peers have blamed the lurch into ever stronger wines on a desire to earn the praise of Robert Parker, America's most influential wine critic.
Parker and other critics have showered compliments on Mr Tolmach's beefy wines, making the latter's decision to change direction a particularly brave one, said rivals.
Critics complain that wine drinkers rarely pay any attention to the alcohol level in the bottle they are consuming.
California is the fourth biggest wine-making area in the world, after France, Spain and Italy. As in Australia, Californian wines tend to be stronger because they are produced in a hotter climate.
Trying to limit alcohol content while retaining flavour is an increasingly major challenge for wine producers as the effects of climate change become more marked.
Even in France, the average Bordeaux's alcohol content has grown slightly, up from 12.5% to 13%.
British retailers are starting to show signs of a backlash against high alcohol wine.
Last year, Sue Daniels, Marks and Spencer's wine technologist, said the company would be trying to find more 12% wines in future.
Makes sense, the less alcohol the more wine you have to drink, that means you have to buy more wine which means more money for the winery... or I’d just switch to tequila and laugh as the winery went out of business.
Say it aint so!
To paraphrase Monty Pyton skit, it will be like making love in a canoe.
I imagine MD 20-20, Wild Irish Rose, Thunderbird and Night Train Express won’t be affected.
I wonder what this food critic thinks about his editor slipping that breathtakingly idiotic global warming plug into his wine story.
Personally I don’t drink period, but it’s interesting to note the article is really about the European taste, thus their market, and Globull Warming. I find it “verrrrrry interesting, but shtoopid”.
If memory serves me, the California wines have been walking away with award after award in European Wine evaluations/contests if you will. If something works, why fix it?
Euwwww! Gross, Effete Americanos with European wine palates? Give me the monster. I am an American, and I can take it.You Euro gurly men can have your reduced pseudo wines!
I think some of higher priced brands might use a grape concentrate but it may be an artificial grape.
I imagine MD 20-20, Wild Irish Rose, Thunderbird and Night Train Express wont be affected.
Had Mad Dog 20-20 once. Couldn’t look at another pint of it....even after my eyesight came back.
There maybe a Grape Flavored MD 20-20.
“Makes sense, the less alcohol the more wine you have to drink, that means you have to buy more wine which means more money for the winery... or Id just switch to tequila and laugh as the winery went out of business.”
Yeah, this is defiantly not the consumer complaining about this. It is the retailer and critics that 97% of the wine consumers don’t know or care what they think. I have never bought wine based on alcohol content and can’t even tell you what the content of the wine I have at home.
Speak for yourself Mac. I can always finish a bottle with my wife if we're at home. She has one glass and I polish off the other 3-1/2, no sweat.
Just as long as they don’t mess with my Thunderbird.
The WAS a grape MD 20/20 - I lived on the stuff at GWU. You could get the 21% Mad Dog in DC much to the detriment of my GPA.
Utter nonsense. The wines I regularly drink are between 12% and 14%. But some I have laid back are in the 15% - 16%. Excellent with the right meal.
Personally, I think California wines generally suck. But, then I’m spoiled on a winery that regularly beats Napa wines when they go head to head.
I am glad to learn that there is a backlash against high alcohol wines. When I started drinking wine with my dinner, many, many years ago, the alcohol content by volume for quite good French clarets was 11.5%. With the marketing of California wines, the alcohol content went up, way up. Today, even the French (who still make the best clarets in the world) have increased alcohol content to 13.5% Why? Practically speaking, wine with dinner should be enjoyed liberally, but the higher alcohol content makes such enjoyment impossible — unless, of course, you don’t mind falling off your dinner chair and chasing your tie around the floor with your tongue.