Disclaimer: I am a lightweight.
I don't understand the appeal of hot wines. To me, if the alcohol isn't balanced, the wine no longer is enjoyable and tastes too spirit-y. Now, i definitely love a big bold wine with richness, but throwing one of the important factors of a balanced wine off-center doesn't seem like innovation to me.
Besides, one glass of wine gives me a nice buzz and sharing a bottle with another person makes me quite drunk. I drink wine b/c i enjoy the flavor. I dont drink wine when I want to get sloshed. So why would I drink something i enjoy that I have to have less of purely to stay above the sober line?
- Reply by Mark Angelillo, Mar 10, 2008.
The article points the trend directly at an interest in producing riper grapes with fuller fruit flavors but I'd like to know a little bit more. The alcohol in wine is a direct product of fermentation -- yeast eating sugar and producing alcohol, carbon dioxide and heat. (Trap the CO2 for a sparkling wine.)
So obviously, riper fruit means more sugar and hence more alcohol. But as far as I know there is only a certain amount of yeast available for this process, and it kills itself by making its own conditions unbearably alcoholic. Is extra yeast added to get the extra kick? Aren't there other factors? Ripe fruit can have concentrated sugars or it can have more water.
I think I'm hitting the ceiling of what I know about viticulture and vinification but I'm certainly interested in hearing some of the winemaker's weigh in here!
As for my preference, I do prefer balance but a hot wine doesn't deter me for too long.
- Reply by Chris Carpita, Mar 10, 2008.
Well, reducing the amount of yeast might leave the wine with a higher residual sugar than desired, that's the flipside. I like the idea of using reverse osmosis to remove some of the alcohol, although I have to imagine that you lose some other compounds by creating a concentration gradient.
I think the free market will put pressure on vinyards to pull their grapes earlier, if the hotness of the wine reduces demand for Cali Cab, like it does for Ms. Kops. On the other hand, there may be a niche to fill on the global market, and the idea of a hot wine sounds American. Bigger and Badder.
- Reply by Daniel Petroski, Mar 10, 2008.
High %'s of alcohol can do a couple of positive things for wine - (1) add a little sweetness to the finish, thus making the tannins feel a bit smoother, more subdued and (2) reduce the prevalence of TCA. However, I don't think either of these two reasons is why high alcohol wines exists. CCarpita touched on it, the American palate is as big and bad as American's taste for cars. 4 out of 5 Americans drive SUV's, 4 out of 5 Italians drive the Fiat Panda. (Stats made up for argument's sake.) We don't have the fabled "terroir" here in California that is going to produce Old World style wines (wines that are part of our daily drinking lives and not for getting drunk); so, we do what we can with the the market demands - big, bold, fruit driven wines. With America having become the largest consumer of wine in the world (and that fact was not made up); other countries are following the palate to the prize, i.e. big wines, big scores, big dollars at the (American) wine store.