Insane high-alcohol arms race

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Insane high-alcohol arms race

Postby Robin Garr » Fri Nov 19, 2010 8:25 pm

This Juan Gil 2007 Jumilla has 15 percent alcohol! The high-alcohol wine arms race is getting insane.

It tastes good, though ...
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Re: Insane high-alcohol arms race

Postby David M. Bueker » Fri Nov 19, 2010 9:30 pm

15%? That's not high anymore.
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Re: Insane high-alcohol arms race

Postby Florida Jim » Fri Nov 19, 2010 10:28 pm

Robin Garr wrote:This Juan Gil 2007 Jumilla has 15 percent alcohol! The high-alcohol wine arms race is getting insane.

It tastes good, though ...


I almost didn't read the fine print - good on ya.
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Re: Insane high-alcohol arms race

Postby David M. Bueker » Fri Nov 19, 2010 10:38 pm

Victor bait!
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Re: Insane high-alcohol arms race

Postby Richard Fadeley » Fri Nov 19, 2010 11:18 pm

The first thing my students do is look for the ABV% on the label. It is ridiculous what has happened to our wine. I am firmly convinced that 13% is the magic number. On rare occasion you can get by with 13.5 or even 14, but that is the limit, at least for me. In almost all cases, when they try to overdo a wine (i.e. make a block buster wine) that is exactly what they do, they overdo the wine and make a food-unfriendly wine with high alcohol and lower acidity. But they can't make us drink it, though Wine Spectator and Parker will try. To me a "block-buster" wine is a stunning 91-93 pt Bordeaux or Burgundy (or Rioja, Cahor, Chinon, Chianti) at 13% ABV. IMO there are a lot of grapes wasted on these "big" wines, but not on me. Right now I am drinking what I would consider a 91 point '03 Larose-Trintaudon (Haut-Medoc) and it is "on-point" and delicious, but Parker would probably give it only 87-88 pts. To each his own, but I'm very comfortable with "my own".
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Re: Insane high-alcohol arms race

Postby David M. Bueker » Fri Nov 19, 2010 11:36 pm

Richard,

While I am no fan of over the top alcohol, to have the abv be "the first thing" to look at seems to be an incredibly narrow view IMO.

And as for the sweet spot being 13%, may I present Riesling Kabinett at 8.0% alcohol. :mrgreen:
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Re: Insane high-alcohol arms race

Postby Richard Fadeley » Sat Nov 20, 2010 12:05 am

David M. Bueker wrote:And as for the sweet spot being 13%, may I present Riesling Kabinett at 8.0% alcohol. :mrgreen:


By magic number, I meant the upper limit. Certainly there are great wines @ 8, 10, 12% ABV. I will be drinking Moscato d'Asti at Thanksgiving dinner that will weigh in at between 5.5-7% ABV, and there will be a Beaujolais Nouveau @ 12%, and an '09 BEX Riesling @ 10% as well. I love my sparklers that you just mentioned are not very good over 13%. I actually believe that European wines are a totally different beverage than New World wines due to their acidity, lower ABV's, etc. although many are trying to compete with NW with more modern styles (a mistake, but understandable, due to market pressures). How much fun is it to drink one glass of a giant 94 point 15% fruit bomb, if you can even get through it? I think we basically agree on this issue. I will go so far to posit that we even lose quite a few potential wine drinkers because they are put-off or get "wine-headaches" from the California and Australia wines that they are introduced to. Many people tell me they "can't drink red wine" without getting headaches. Obviously a case of over 13% ABV wines. When I suggest these lower ABV's they invariably agree that the wine is drinkable. But this thing seems out of control. I just hope that France (and Italy) stick to what they know best (and like to drink themselves).
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Re: Insane high-alcohol arms race

Postby Victorwine » Sat Nov 20, 2010 12:59 am

There are a couple of things you have to consider. Surely this part of Spain has a long and rich winemaking history. The wine region now known as Jumilla only became a DO in 1966. Over the years it has had it problems with a little known pest named phylloxera. The last time was 1989, and it was devastating, thousands of acres of vineyards had to be replanted. Basically they had to start all over.

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Re: Insane high-alcohol arms race

Postby David M. Bueker » Sat Nov 20, 2010 10:34 am

Richard Fadeley wrote:By magic number, I meant the upper limit. Certainly there are great wines @ 8, 10, 12% ABV. I will be drinking Moscato d'Asti at Thanksgiving dinner that will weigh in at between 5.5-7% ABV, and there will be a Beaujolais Nouveau @ 12%, and an '09 BEX Riesling @ 10% as well. I love my sparklers that you just mentioned are not very good over 13%. I actually believe that European wines are a totally different beverage than New World wines due to their acidity, lower ABV's, etc. although many are trying to compete with NW with more modern styles (a mistake, but understandable, due to market pressures). How much fun is it to drink one glass of a giant 94 point 15% fruit bomb, if you can even get through it? I think we basically agree on this issue. I will go so far to posit that we even lose quite a few potential wine drinkers because they are put-off or get "wine-headaches" from the California and Australia wines that they are introduced to. Many people tell me they "can't drink red wine" without getting headaches. Obviously a case of over 13% ABV wines. When I suggest these lower ABV's they invariably agree that the wine is drinkable. But this thing seems out of control. I just hope that France (and Italy) stick to what they know best (and like to drink themselves).


My comment re: 8% alcohol was of course mostly in jest.

Much of the alcohol debate smacks of dogma to me rather than reasoned debate. There's a place for lower alcohol wines, and those with higher ABV. Much of the rise in alcohol in wines I like (e.g. Austrian Riesling & Gruner Veltliner) has to do with much warmer temperatures rather than any attempt to compete with new world styles. In a year like 2006, 14% alcohol or more was common for Austrian white wines. In some cases it was balanced, while in other cases it was not. And that is the quesiton for me - is the wine balanced. I drank a Karl Lawrence Cabernet (Napa) last night that was labeled 14.5% alcohol, yet it was perfectly balanced and impossible to stop drinking.

In terms of new wine drinkers, the vast majority of novices I run across are all for the richer, fruitier and yes higher alcohol wines. Convincing them of the virtues of Gamay or Riesling is much harder than getting them to enjoy (note - I did not say appreciate) the more blatant charms of Cabernet, Shiraz and heavily oaked Chardonnay. Of course I still try. I do tastings for non-geeks fairly regularly, and it is much more common for people to say they can't drink European wines because they get those nasty "headaches."

As for the purported difference between European and New World wines, I think that the base differences are largely climate & soil driven, with winemaking laid on top of that. Of course that ignores that there are New World wines that have a distinct nod to European styles (and as is lamented by Old World wine fans the nods go the other way sometimes as well).
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Re: Insane high-alcohol arms race

Postby Daniel Rogov » Sat Nov 20, 2010 1:29 pm

Agreed with David that the question is not the alcohol content of wine but its balance. The moment the wood, the tannins, or the alcohol takes priority over fruits and other elements is the moment when the wine is out of balance. Although they are not my personal passion, I have had dry reds with up to 16.5% and once in great while 16% alcohol that have shown fine balance and structure.

On the other hand, if I had to guess at the upper limit that I find acceptable before the alcohol begins to throw the wine out of balance, that would be 16%.

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Re: Insane high-alcohol arms race

Postby Bob H » Sat Nov 20, 2010 5:05 pm

16% wines and 11% beers. Glad I don't weigh 90 lbs. because I'd be falling over after one drink. lol
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Re: Insane high-alcohol arms race

Postby Peter May » Sun Nov 21, 2010 2:22 pm

The Orin Swift 'The Prisoner' 2008 Napa red is 15.2% abv

Laithwaites* has long listed a Grenache wine made for them in the Pyrenees they called XV du Président, the number refers to its 15% abv == "Thunderously powerful" vintage of the King ... pure fruit with a whack of 15% power!"


*a very succesful long established UK mail order company which also operates wine-clubs associated with organisations and newspapers in the UK and USA (WSJ, Zagat) and elsewhere.
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Re: Insane high-alcohol arms race

Postby Clint Hall » Mon Nov 22, 2010 3:03 am

A friend who hosted dinner last night brought along several Turley Zins, all weighing in at between 16 and 17 percent. They ranged from 2005s back to 2001s, and the 2001s were much more integrated than the younger Turleys and masked the alcohol better than the younger ones did. The two 2001s, which were a Duarte and a Haine, were the first Turleys I've found drinkable with food, but my impression was in another year or two both will be over the hill, with the alcohol again stealing the show. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think the drinking window for wines at this alcoholic level is very narrow, assuming they are to be drunk with food. But I suspect Turley fans will disagree.
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Re: Insane high-alcohol arms race

Postby Andrew Burge » Mon Nov 22, 2010 8:11 am

Hi everyone,

I guess its no surprise that Aussie wines seem to weigh in well in this type of race, and theres been comments on various wines made by Sparky Marquis that get over 16% alcohol.

The biggest I have ever seen on a dry wine was 18.5% on a recent Greenock Creek Shiraz, I'm afraid I cant recall which one. I didn't think yeasts survived very well in environments like that!

cheers

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Re: Insane high-alcohol arms race

Postby Brian Gilp » Mon Nov 22, 2010 10:34 am

Clint Hall wrote:A friend who hosted dinner last night brought along several Turley Zins, all weighing in at between 16 and 17 percent. They ranged from 2005s back to 2001s, and the 2001s were much more integrated than the younger Turleys and masked the alcohol better than the younger ones did. The two 2001s, which were a Duarte and a Haine, were the first Turleys I've found drinkable with food, but my impression was in another year or two both will be over the hill, with the alcohol again stealing the show. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think the drinking window for wines at this alcoholic level is very narrow, assuming they are to be drunk with food. But I suspect Turley fans will disagree.


I recently has the 2001 Martinelli Blue Slide Ridge PN that has left me wondering about the belief that high alcohol wines can't age. I tasted the wine shortly after release and found it hot and out of blanance. Sold all my bottles but one. Opened that bottle within the past 2 months and found it to be a wonderful wine that is balanced and showing no signs of fading anytime soon. The wine that I found so alcoholic as to be undrinkable upon release did not seem the least bit hot at 9 years of age. Until that wine, I had always believed that if a wine tasted of alcohol young it would only get worse as the fruit fades but it seems that in at least this case the wines drank better with some age. Really makes me wonder.
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Re: Insane high-alcohol arms race

Postby Florida Jim » Mon Nov 22, 2010 11:13 am

Brian Gilp wrote:I recently has the 2001 Martinelli Blue Slide Ridge PN that has left me wondering about the belief that high alcohol wines can't age..


What did the label say on this wine?
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Re: Insane high-alcohol arms race

Postby Tim York » Mon Nov 22, 2010 11:13 am

Richard Fadeley wrote:The first thing my students do is look for the ABV% on the label. It is ridiculous what has happened to our wine.


I too am worried by the drift towards higher and higher alcohol but I think that your students go too far here. We don't want to see a paranoia developing akin to what some people feel about brett, VA, oak traces or what you will. It all depends on how it tastes and, as it happens, my best wine last week, a Priorat (TN soon), was also the highest in alcohol. That said, I dislike what the high alcohol drift has done to, say, Bordeaux and I wonder it the wines being made there nowadays can possibly mature into the fragrant, well balanced and discreetly elegant clarets which I was brought up to love.
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Re: Insane high-alcohol arms race

Postby Brian Gilp » Mon Nov 22, 2010 11:41 am

Florida Jim wrote:
Brian Gilp wrote:I recently has the 2001 Martinelli Blue Slide Ridge PN that has left me wondering about the belief that high alcohol wines can't age..


What did the label say on this wine?
Best, Jim


The bottle resides somewhere at home and I will try to hunt it down tonight. I believe that the label stated 15.2% and found a note on cellartracker that lists this so I believe it is correct.

Confirmed with my bottle at home. Label states 15.2%
Last edited by Brian Gilp on Mon Nov 22, 2010 7:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Insane high-alcohol arms race

Postby Victorwine » Mon Nov 22, 2010 6:19 pm

We can blame it on climate change and market pressure (and I’m pretty sure they have something to do with it), but they are not the sole reasons why we see rising alcohol levels. Modern viticultural techniques have a great deal to do with it. Today we can pick the grapes at a “higher degree of ripeness”. This is not new to anyone here, in hotter sunnier growing seasons or regions you’re going to get wines with more “concentration”. You can decide to pick the grapes earlier and produce wines that are not as concentrated as those picked later but then again you risk people calling it “green” (mind you this is not necessarily a bad thing).
Like Daniel and David pointed out it is all about “balance” (or what you believe “balance” is all about). I know this group just loves “numbers”, but looking at just the alcohol content and making a judgment about the wine is like looking solely at the RS (residual sugar) of a German Riesling and making a judgment about its “sweetness”. When looking at RS you have to consider TA (acidity); when looking at alcohol content I think you should also be looking at dry extract concentration. (Unfortunately the former info is not usually stated on the bottle).

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Re: Insane high-alcohol arms race

Postby Robin Garr » Mon Nov 22, 2010 6:24 pm

Victorwine wrote:looking at just the alcohol content and making a judgment about the wine

Victor, your points are well-taken, and graciously worded as always. It's hard to disagree. :) I'll make a small quibble here, though, as the original poster. You'll notice that after posting a provocative subject line, I added in tiny print that I enjoyed the Juan Gil Jumilla in spite of its 15 percent alcohol.

However, I'll willingly plead guilty to one point: When I see a table wine in the neighborhood of 14.5% and upward, I will often make a decision not to buy it, not on the basis of a prejudicial judgement of its quality, but because I want to be able to enjoy a glass or even two without concern about driving home from the restaurant or waking up headachy in the morning. Sure, the wine can be well-balanced and even delightful, if it's made well; but I'm basing my buy/no-buy decision on something different.
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Re: Insane high-alcohol arms race

Postby wrcstl » Mon Nov 22, 2010 6:36 pm

Richard Fadeley wrote:The first thing my students do is look for the ABV% on the label. It is ridiculous what has happened to our wine. I am firmly convinced that 13% is the magic number. On rare occasion you can get by with 13.5 or even 14, but that is the limit, at least for me. In almost all cases, when they try to overdo a wine (i.e. make a block buster wine) that is exactly what they do, they overdo the wine and make a food-unfriendly wine with high alcohol and lower acidity. But they can't make us drink it, though Wine Spectator and Parker will try. To me a "block-buster" wine is a stunning 91-93 pt Bordeaux or Burgundy (or Rioja, Cahor, Chinon, Chianti) at 13% ABV. IMO there are a lot of grapes wasted on these "big" wines, but not on me. Right now I am drinking what I would consider a 91 point '03 Larose-Trintaudon (Haut-Medoc) and it is "on-point" and delicious, but Parker would probably give it only 87-88 pts. To each his own, but I'm very comfortable with "my own".


Richard,
I agree with you and will not purchase a wine over 14.5% and can't rememberthe last one I bought that was that high. It is the first thing I look at on the bottle. We only drink wine with food and 15%+ just does not work, fortified wines excluded. My favorite is 13-13.5% max
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Re: Insane high-alcohol arms race

Postby Paul B. » Sun Nov 28, 2010 12:23 am

I saw a few "fifteen percents" at the LCBO today; passed them right by with a cold shoulder.

Unfortunately, it seems that many South African wines are following the insane alcohol craze. I remember ten years ago that you could get them in the 12-14% range. Now, 14% seems on the low minimum!!!

Truly, if I want Port, I'll get Port. Or Zinfandel.

Too many wines are getting on up there in heat. Some can carry that alcohol amazingly well, but others just come across as clumsy and ugly.
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Re: Insane high-alcohol arms race

Postby David M. Bueker » Mon Nov 29, 2010 10:18 am

Just ran across a positive note about this wine elsewhere on the interwineweb. Might be worth a flier if I see it on the shelf.
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WTN: Juan Gil 2007 Jumilla

Postby Robin Garr » Mon Nov 29, 2010 11:55 am

David M. Bueker wrote:Just ran across a positive note about this wine elsewhere on the interwineweb. Might be worth a flier if I see it on the shelf.

Oops, you know what? I featured this wine in Friday's 30 Second Wine Advisor but neglected to post it here because the points in the main article had already been covered in this thread. I should put up the WTN, though ...


Juan Gil 2007 Jumilla ($16.99)

Very dark garnet, dark purple at the center. Dark red fruits, cherries and plums, on a backdrop of sweet smoky oak with an earthy back note reminiscent of tree bark. Ripe and fresh plums on the palate, a fruity impression that almost seems sweet at first, shaped by good acidity and soft tannins that finish dry. The stunning 15% alcohol, to its credit, is not obvious in the flavor, but watch that second glass! Made entirely from Monastrell grapes, said to be the Spanish equivalent of Mourvèdre. U.S. importer: Cutting Edge Selections Inc., Mariemont, Ohio; Jorge Ordoñez Selections. (Nov. 19, 2010)

FOOD MATCH: Its full flavor and forward alcohol really wants red meat; even venison should work well. It was fine with lamb shanks braised with fresh herbs and white beans.

VALUE: A fair buy at this mid-teens price, but shopping around may pay dividends, as my local toll is at the high end of the range. The 2008 vintage is already in distribution. It should be similar, and I wouldn't hesitate to pick it up instead.

PRONUNCIATION:
Jumilla = "Hoo-MEE-yah"

WEB LINK: The Bodegas Hijos de Juan Gil Website is published in Spanish and English. Click here for the English language start page:
http://www.juangil.es/ing/index.htm

FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:
You'll find plenty of vendors for this widely distributed wine on Wine-Searcher.com.
http://www.wine-searcher.com/find/Juan% ... g_site=WLP
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