Much has been made of the plethora of high alcohol wines currently available to us wine imbibers. Recently Eric Asimov of the NYT and The Pour contends with James Laube of Wine Spectator in a trenchant cyber exchange of a high alcohol apologist (Laube) and well a less than high alcohol apologist? Now I could spend this whole post summarizing their positions, quoting pithy statements from their own posts, and offering my own thoughts, but that isn’t the focus of this blog. Hundreds of bloggers have commented on both of these articles or even recently published their own thoughts on the subject of high alcohol wines.
What I contend is that the problem is not high alcohol per se. No, high alcohol is the byproduct of a winemaking decision to produce wines that are big, powerful, and showy. I think I should couch my discussion by saying that 1) I would prefer wines to have lower alcohol than often seen in CA wines, and 2) I rarely look at the alcohol content of a wine before or after I drink it for the most part I do not care. The position I will outline could be summarized in a plea: Please stop referring to wines that Asimov describes as overbearing. [with] Too much flavor. Too jammy. Too sweet-tasting. Too powerful. Too plush. They taste the same and they don’t go with food as high alcohol wines. Yes many of these wines have high alcohol, but it’s not the alcohol that is responsible – I believe – for our distaste for these wines. (Parenthetically, I think Asimov gets that it is a style of wine that people oppose most). The reason for this is that alcohol, while critical to the sensory experience of wine, is rarely tasted as alcohol and I would argue even when we think we are tasting high alcohol it is really something else.