Wine Follow Up

I know I know, everyone is tired of reading repetitive articles on wine. But since I’m not trying to promote myself or sell cars, I figure who cares if this is redundant? After all I am trying to systematically synthesize winemaking and viticulture information and find true enological knowledge. I’m looking for winemaking and winegrowing truth if it exists. However since this is old news I’ll try to be brief. There are two topics I would like to comment on.

1) The well-known Sacramento importer Corti Brothers took a misguided stance on alcohol in wine. From the article in the San Francisco Chronicle: High-alcohol wines above 14.5 percent would no longer grace the shelves of Corti Brothers

Way to really take a stand. Wow, what a declaration! Except one thing. Legally wineries that make wine above 14.05% are only obligated to print the labeled alcohol within 1% of the actual alcohol. Since above or below 14.05% requires different taxation, a wine at 14.6% cannot be labeled 13.6%, but it could be labeled 15.5%. More likely, a wine labeled 14.2% may actually be 15.2% and the consumer would not know. So if you really wanted to make a statement regarding wines sales at a certain alcohol level, then it seems you would choose wine in the < 14.05% tax category because these legally must be labeled below 14.05% (as opposed to a wine at 14.4% – within the Corti acceptable range – actually being above 14.5% – supposedly outside their acceptable range). I assume the reason they choose 14.5% is because this way many of the Italian wines they import would not be eliminated. Buyer beware: many stated alcohols on labels above 14% are nefarious. I know of many highly sought after and delicious wines labeled at 14.6% that are 15.5% and no one knows or cares because of the wine’s delectability.

2) Tom Wark (whose work I usually appreciate) jumped on the now infamous comments of Randy Dunn regarding alcohol and added his own two cents: “Those who disagree with Dunn and who defend the high alcohol wines, particularly those in the 15%+ range are simply wrong. Unless it’s Zinfandel or Port, a 15.5% alcohol wine is not good. It may not be bad. But it’s not good.” Wow, that’s quite a statement. Especially in light of my comments above. I wonder how many wines Tom has had that have been labeled 14.5, 14.6, or 14.7% that we’re actually above 15% alcohol? I bet more than one that he considered great. Of course I can never prove it, but neither can he. Such statements are – in my opinion – borderline hubris and dismissive of the facts regarding our perception of alcohol in wine; as I noted in a recent post summarizing such perception. I don’t defend these wines per se, but much of the evidence speaks for itself.