Wine Talk

Snooth User: Mark Angelillo

Why are some wines so alcoholic?

Original post by Mark Angelillo, Sep 19, 2011.

Okay, so this is not news, and it's been discussed on the forum before. In the spirit of GDP's new rants, I figured I'd throw mine out there as well. I've seen too many hangovers caused by misjudged pacing due to wild variations in alcohol content.

Mostly this is difficult in restaurants. If we're shopping in stores we can check the label easily enough.

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Reply by donvtwin, Sep 24, 2011.

Hello fellow wine lovers. Ever think that until about 1974, most Napa and California vineyards were not irrigated. There is a direct link between irrigation and alcohol content. There are others factors but this one is overlooked.

A friend brought a 1974 Robert Mondavi Cabernet to dinner and the Alcohol was 12% and the wine rocked. You'd be hard pressed to find Cabernet below 14% these days.

If you like big red wines, have at them. I'll take Cote du Rhones for that niche and enjoy 13.5% complex and well made wines. I bought two 23 year old Chateauneauf-du-Pape's from different producers and both were elegant and full of flavor without high alcohol.

PS I think its still illegal too irrigate in most places in France, Italy and Spain (like Rioja).


Reply by GregT, Sep 24, 2011.

I'm not sure why there's a link between irrigation and alcohol content other than perhaps a LOWERING of the alcohol content in the wine if the grapes are irrigated.  At least that's what logic and science tell us.

Irrigation was practiced in Egypt centuries ago, and in other regions as well, like Mesopotamia and Armenia.

It's legal in France, Spain and Italy.

Alcohol has to do with the sugar in grapes at harvest, not with irrigation.  If you pick your grapes later, you have more sugar and more potential alcohol.  If you grow in a hot and dry climate, you may be able to get your grapes riper than someone in a cloudy northern climate.  So CdP is likely to be made from riper grapes than you'd find in Burgundy, for example.  And most CdP these days is well over 14.5 and heading into 15 pct or over. Those aren't low-alcohol wines.


Reply by dmcker, Sep 25, 2011.

Do you think RP's influence on Rhone markets might have anything to do with that rise in alc. %, Greg?  ;-)

Reply by napagirl68, Sep 25, 2011.

@dmcker....'s global warming, of course ;-) ;-)

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