High-alcohol whites irritate me. :P

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High-alcohol whites irritate me. :P

Postby Robin Garr » Fri Mar 08, 2013 9:07 pm

I posted this on Facebook in an irritated moment and quickly had a Spanish wine maker and a (sometimes WLDGer) wine sales guy jump in to tell me that high alcohol whites are just spiffy. :P

I should have just put it here in the first place. So, what do you folks think?

>> Wines that make me irritable: I just brought home a Palazone 2011 “Grek” Grechetto, an Umbrian white to have with dinner, expecting it to be in an appealing Old World regional style ... and belatedly noticed that it's listed at 14.5% alcohol. A Marco de Grazia import, of course. #feeltheburn <<

https://www.facebook.com/robin.garr/pos ... 3693397479
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Re: High-alcohol whites irritate me. :P

Postby Brian Gilp » Fri Mar 08, 2013 10:13 pm

It all depends. Can't judge on the listed alcohol alone. Too many other factors.
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Re: High-alcohol whites irritate me. :P

Postby David M. Bueker » Fri Mar 08, 2013 10:20 pm

Sipping a lovely 11% alcohol halbtrocken Riesling.
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Re: High-alcohol whites irritate me. :P

Postby Robin Garr » Fri Mar 08, 2013 10:53 pm

Brian Gilp wrote:It all depends. Can't judge on the listed alcohol alone. Too many other factors.

In general I agree, Brian, but sight unseen I have two objections:

* For traditional European wine styles, extreme high alcohol sheds authenticity, and that matters.

* Extreme high alcohol disincentivizes me from taking a second glass, and that matters, too. :mrgreen:
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Re: High-alcohol whites irritate me. :P

Postby Rahsaan » Fri Mar 08, 2013 11:00 pm

Robin Garr wrote:* For traditional European wine styles, extreme high alcohol sheds authenticity, and that matters.


'Authenticity'?

That seems like a pretty broad brush.

Some terroirs are more prone to give higher alcohol wines than others. In and outside of Europe. Of the wines I drink most regularly, Anjou/Savennieres comes to mind as one where a struggle with high alcohol is part of the local winegrowing ecosystem.

Of course that could just be tonight's 14% Pfalz weissburgunder talking...
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Re: High-alcohol whites irritate me. :P

Postby Salil » Fri Mar 08, 2013 11:14 pm

Can't agree.

Not while I'm drinking an Amontillado (18% alcohol) that's astoundingly delicate, polished and elegant. :)
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Re: High-alcohol whites irritate me. :P

Postby David M. Bueker » Fri Mar 08, 2013 11:20 pm

Fortifieds don't count in the same category Salil.
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Re: High-alcohol whites irritate me. :P

Postby Robin Garr » Fri Mar 08, 2013 11:43 pm

David M. Bueker wrote:Fortifieds don't count in the same category Salil.

This. Love me some Port, or a quality Sherry, etc. But you sip it, you don't usually go through a half-bottle at dinner.
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Re: High-alcohol whites irritate me. :P

Postby Drew Hall » Fri Mar 08, 2013 11:54 pm

Not a fan of high alcohol wines generally, I can drink more when the alcohol is in check :wink:
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Re: High-alcohol whites irritate me. :P

Postby Ben Rotter » Sat Mar 09, 2013 6:12 am

Well, it is a balance issue, and there are plenty of wines high in alcohol that I'd consider balanced and that I enjoy. But, being able to drink a greater volume for the same alcohol intake is definitely preferable to me.

Even more importantly for me, wines that have higher alcohol tend (as a huge generalisation) to be riper in fruit aroma (and tannin flavour) and less savoury in style, which mean they're styles of wine that I'm generally less interested in drinking.

The idea that riper grapes lose their terroir-signature/site expression (is that what you meant by "authenticity", Robin?) is fairly common. I'm not so sure it's a loss of terroir so much as a different expression of the terroir, but I guess that's a whole other (though related) topic.
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Re: High-alcohol whites irritate me. :P

Postby Sam Platt » Sat Mar 09, 2013 9:24 am

I recently tasted an Aubert Chardonnay that came in at just under 16% alcohol. Though I expected that the alcohol content would throw it off balance the heavy oak is what really overwhelmed the wine. Having tasted that wine I can see the potential for a decently balanced super high alcohol Chard. I can't imagine a 14%+ alcohol Riesling being even remotely Riesling-like.
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Re: High-alcohol whites irritate me. :P

Postby Tom Troiano » Sat Mar 09, 2013 9:53 am

I agree with some others. The alchohol % on the label is meaningless to me and I can say I've never once purchased a wine (or not purchased one) because of looking at that number. It is all about balance (as others have said) and the idea that higher alcohol means less authenticity doesn't really match my experience.

That said, if I tasted 50 Beaucastel's, Lynch Bages, Ridge Geyserville's and Guigal Cote Rotie BeBs I have no idea if there would be a correlation between alcohol and "authenticity" (for example, would the one's I said were most typical of Beaucastel have the lowest % alcohol? I don't know).

Robin, you are certainly free to drink a little less of the higher alcohol wines or ignore them altogether if its a problem.
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Re: High-alcohol whites irritate me. :P

Postby Rahsaan » Sat Mar 09, 2013 10:08 am

Sam Platt wrote:I can't imagine a 14%+ alcohol Riesling being even remotely Riesling-like.


Then you might get lost in Southern Germany, Alsace, or Austria where they can approach 14% (although 16% does sound crazy for any table wine, white or red).
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Re: High-alcohol whites irritate me. :P

Postby Brian Gilp » Sat Mar 09, 2013 10:28 am

Rahsaan wrote:
Sam Platt wrote:I can't imagine a 14%+ alcohol Riesling being even remotely Riesling-like.


Then you might get lost in Southern Germany, Alsace, or Austria where they can approach 14% (although 16% does sound crazy for any table wine, white or red).

16% is roughly 27 brix depending upon yeast conversion efficiency. If not for Jesus units and other methods there would be more wines coming in at that point (or higher) thanks to longer hang time and higher brix fruit becoming fashionable in many places. Considering the 1% label allowance for wine over 14% and that wine could go to market labeled as 15%. When one sees a wine that is labeled at 14.9% every vintage like Shafer HSS there is no way to know from the label what the final alcohol content is for the wine in the bottle.

I have read a number of relatively modern wine making books that strongly recommended not picking below 24.5 brix (14.5) for full flavor development. From memory I think this is just reds and that whites would be a little lower.
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Re: High-alcohol whites irritate me. :P

Postby Sam Platt » Sat Mar 09, 2013 6:17 pm

Rashaan wrote: Then you might get lost in Southern Germany, Alsace, or Austria where they can approach 14% (although 16% does sound crazy for any table wine, white or red).


A quick check of the seventeen different Rieslings that I own from those three regions show alcohol content ranging from 7.5% to 11.5%. I don't recall ever personally coming across a Riesling in excess of 12.5% alcohol. Maybe I would be pleasantly surprised if I ever did happen onto a high alcohol Riesling.
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Re: High-alcohol whites irritate me. :P

Postby David Lole » Sat Mar 09, 2013 9:34 pm

As a rule, I can't stand high alcohol dry table wine in any colour. An Alsace SDGN passed the test in the past once ..... In 2007, a 1988 Hugel Gewurtztraminer @ 15% was outstanding .... but every Zind-Humbrecht I've tried at a similar levels has fallen on its arse within a few years. Riesling at or above 13% generally gives me the irrits. Funny how so many of our winemakers in Australia are coming back on alcohol levels. Maybe they have woken up to what 14 -15+% whites & reds do in the bottle with some bottle age?
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Re: High-alcohol whites irritate me. :P

Postby Rahsaan » Sat Mar 09, 2013 10:47 pm

Sam Platt wrote:
Rahsaan wrote: Then you might get lost in Southern Germany, Alsace, or Austria where they can approach 14% (although 16% does sound crazy for any table wine, white or red).
I don't recall ever personally coming across a Riesling in excess of 12.5% alcohol.


I wouldn't say it's the norm, but in a ripe year from a warm climate (e.g. Baden, Wachau) it's easily possible. I don't love high-achohol wines of any kind, but for me 14% is the cutoff where it starts to get really hard to work well as opposed to 12%. And of course given the vagueness of labeling, best not to get too attached to what's on the label.
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Re: High-alcohol whites irritate me. :P

Postby Tom Troiano » Sun Mar 10, 2013 9:34 am

Rahsaan wrote: And of course given the vagueness of labeling, best not to get too attached to what's on the label.


Great point.

Some use the same label in multiple years and you get +-1.5% in the US anyway, correct?
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Re: High-alcohol whites irritate me. :P

Postby David M. Bueker » Sun Mar 10, 2013 10:20 am

At either 14 or 14.5% the allowance drops to +/- 1%.
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Re: High-alcohol whites irritate me. :P

Postby Brian Gilp » Sun Mar 10, 2013 12:54 pm

David M. Bueker wrote:At either 14 or 14.5% the allowance drops to +/- 1%.

It's 14% and its a hard line. 1.5% below and 1% above but not to cross. So a wine labeled 14.2% can range from 14% to 15.2%. One labeled 12.5% can be between 11% and 14%.
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Re: High-alcohol whites irritate me. :P

Postby Bill Hooper » Sun Mar 10, 2013 4:26 pm

In Germany wines must be labelled in whole numbers or ,5. There is 1% wiggle-room but normally the label is rounded up or down to the nearest half percent. Usually, producers are looking to max-out at 12,5 or 13% for dry Riesling, but many feel that Burgunder can handle a little more (typically, Pinot Blanc ripens before riesling and Pinot Gris ripens before Pinot Blanc). One of the main reasons for the rise in popularity of organic and Biodynamic viticulture is to promote an earlier physiological ripeness before sugar levels (alcohol) get too high.

Rahsaan, Which Weißburgunder were you drinking?

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Re: High-alcohol whites irritate me. :P

Postby Rahsaan » Sun Mar 10, 2013 4:45 pm

Bill Hooper wrote:Rahsaan, Which Weißburgunder were you drinking?


It was a Pfalz weekend here in Manhattan. Friday was the 2011 Bergdolt Kirrweiler Mandelberg Weissburgunder GG and yesterday was the 2010 Bergdolt Duttweiler Kalkberg Spatburgunder GG. I'm guessing each would show more with age but I've had two bottles of each over the past month and they are both intriguing wines that I would be happy to explore in more detail/over the years.
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Re: High-alcohol whites irritate me. :P

Postby David M. Bueker » Sun Mar 10, 2013 5:57 pm

Sam Platt wrote: I can't imagine a 14%+ alcohol Riesling being even remotely Riesling-like.


Some of the 2006s from Austria handle their 14%+ alcohol well. Some don't.
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Re: High-alcohol whites irritate me. :P

Postby Salil » Sun Mar 10, 2013 6:01 pm

My recollection of FX Pichler Unendlich is that it's no shrinking violet. Around 15% alc, maybe a touch more as I recall. Monumentally great wine.

One of my epiphany Rieslings was a bottle of the 1998 Zind-Humbrecht "Brand", clocking in at 15.0% as well - and I drank that in 2008. Amazingly great wine, and I was left awed by how perfectly balanced it was, despite its size.

(And yet, I've had 12% alc halbtrockens that have at times come across too clumsy and heavy handed...)
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