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Special note:
Welcome TipWorld readers!

In the crazy world of dot-com economics, nothing lasts forever; and last week's sale of the Topica E-mail service to Emazing means that I have brought to an end my daily TipWorld wine-tasting tips that were distributed through Topica for the past two years.

However, The 30 Second Wine Advisor continues going strong, and I'm delighted to see that more than 1,000 TipWorld refugees have already signed on to The Wine Advisor mailing list. A warm welcome to you, and thanks for joining this community.

Because there's a lot of interest in a daily feature, I am seriously contemplating adding a daily option to "The 30 Second Wine Advisor." This feature, tentatively called "30 Second Wine Advisor Express," would be offered as an optional extra in addition to the longer weekly bulletin. It would be concise, normally featuring just one wine tasting note, wine-appreciation tip or wine-related hotlink each business day.

This is still just a working concept that might or might not happen, but I would like to hear your opinions. If you like the notion of a short daily "Advisor" (or if for some reason you think it's a lousy plan), please send me E-mail at and tell me your ideas.

And now, on to our regular weekly feature:

30 Second Wine Tasting Tip:
Alcohol in wine

Based on the extensive discussion kicked off by the current topic in our Wine Lovers' Voting Booth, this seems like a good time to ponder the issues raised by the presence of alcohol in wine.

As an "adult beverage," wine indisputably contains alcohol, and as most serious wine lovers know, this can be both a blessing and a challenge. A little is harmless for most people; overindulgence doesn't do anyone any good.

Most wine-loving adults understand the presence of alcohol in our favorite beverage as a part of the wine experience. Physicians call beverage alcohol a "mild depressant," but a philosopher once described it as a "social lubricant." In moderation, alcohol adds to the pleasure of wine for most people. Moreover, it appears to be a necessary element in the aroma, flavor and, perhaps most important, textural qualities that we look for in fine wine. This is one reason why non-alcoholic wines don't satisfy most wine lovers: Taking the alcohol out of wine removes more than just the "buzz," it produces a light, watery fluid that doesn't much resemble real wine.

In excess, too much alcohol is bad, as hardly anyone will dispute. Drunks cause accidents and kill people; chronic alcoholism may destroy both the body and the family. These are not matters to trifle with, and there's a good reason why most societies limit the sale of alcohol to adults who are presumably capable of making wise decisions.

Wines vary dramatically in their alcoholic content. By law in the U.S., at least, "table wines" may contain anywhere from 7 and 14 percent alcohol, with most falling in the range of 11 to 14 percent. But some wines are as light as 5 percent alcohol or less (like the summery Moscato d'Asti from Italy, which technically can't be labeled as "wine"), while some light, sweet German wines may top out at 8 or 9 percent. At the high end, some of the biggest New World Chardonnays and Zinfandels ferment out naturally at 15 percent or above, while powerful brandy-fortified wines like Port and some Sherries can reach 18 to 22 percent. These are wines to be sipped slowly from small glasses!

The current Wine Lovers' Voting Booth topic, which will continue through Friday, April 27, asks whether the percentage of alcohol in a wine is a factor for most wine lovers when we make purchasing decisions. This might take a variety of forms, ranging from a conscious decision to seek out or avoid very high-alcohol wines - or very low-alcohol products - to simply noting whether a specific wine appears to have a level of alcohol that's at variance with its style (an 11 percent Zinfandel, for instance, or a 15 percent Mosel) and thus might suggest an idiosyncratic or even bizarre wine.

The first week's results indicate that about half of the wine lovers who have responded so far never consider a wine's alcoholic content, while 10 percent take it very seriously as a factor in almost all wine-buying decisions. If you haven't "voted" on this topic yet, I hope you'll take a moment to add your opinion to the mix. Simply click to for the ballot.

To participate in an active discussion on the topic in our interactive Wine Lovers' Discussion Group, you can click directly to Or, if you prefer, send me E-mail at I regret that the growing circulation of the "Wine Advisor" makes it difficult for me to reply individually to every note. But I'll answer as many as I can; and please be assured that all your input helps me do a better job of writing about wine.

Please tell your wine-loving friends about The 30 Second Wine Advisor, and invite them to register for their own free weekly copy at

30 Second Tasting Notes:
Bargain Italian red
Speri Speri 1998 Vigneto la Roverina Valpolicella Classico Superiore ($8.99)
For those accustomed to lightweight mass-market Valpolicella, this budget wine will come as a revelation. Very dark ruby in color, it breathes the full dried-cherry aroma that's typical of this Northeastern Italian region's rustic reds. Juicy and ripe in flavor, intense and earthy black-cherry fruit leads into a pleasant, delicately bitter finish. U.S. importer: Empson (USA) Inc., Alexandria, Va. (April 15, 2001)

FOOD MATCH: Ripe fruit and tart acid makes this a surprisingly good match with ham.

30 Second Advertising Partner:
Essential Wine Tasting Guide
Essential Wine Tasting Guide PUT A WINE MENTOR IN YOUR POCKET: You've been bitten by the wine bug and you're starting to get interested. You've learned to take a moment to stop, look, swirl and sniff before you enjoy what's in your glass. But the sheer complexity of it worries you just a bit: How can you ever learn all those tasting words and master the basics sufficiently to make wine appreciation easy?

If this dilemma sounds all too familiar, I invite you to take a look at Glen Green's trademarked new Essential Wine Tasting Guide.

Glen, a wine lover and professional wine maker in Australia and France, has created a remarkable little quick-reference guide to serious wine tasting in a slick, portable format that literally slips into your shirt pocket, wallet or purse. Slip it out, open it up, and it unfolds to reveal 34 mini-pages of compact wine-tasting information including more than 1,000 specific descriptions to help guide you in the analytical tasting of wine. Just 3 1/2 by 2 1/4 inches, it's about the size of a business card, and it comes with a clear plastic holder to keep it like new.

I was so impressed that I asked Glen's permission to offer the Essential Wine Tasting Guide for sale on Wine Lovers' Page. It's $8.95 plus $2 shipping and handling in the U.S., $4 in other countries. If you would like to take a closer look, the Guide is on display at

30 Second Administrivia
This free weekly E-mail publication is distributed to subscribers every Monday. Previous editions are archived on The Wine Lovers' Page. See

You are on the subscription list because you registered during a visit to Robin Garr's Wine Lovers' Page. If for any reason you no longer want to receive this publication, simply send a short E-mail to '' asking to be unsubscribed (and, if you wish, offering us any suggestions you may have as to how we could have served you better), and we'll remove your name from the list. We do not use this list for any other purpose and will never give or sell your name or E-mail to anyone. Please contact us in the same way if your E-mail address changes. And of course we welcome feedback, suggestions, and ideas for future columns. Send us E-mail at

A note about our HTML Edition: Please note that as of December, 2000, we have temporarily suspended publication of an HTML edition (with images), because of persistent technical problems. However, if you signed up for this edition, we are keeping your preference in the database, and you will get it again if and when we resume it.

All the wine-tasting reports posted here are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores and accept no samples, gifts or other gratuities from the wine industry.

More time for wine?
You don't need to wait for Mondays to read about wine! Drop in any time on Robin Garr's Wine Lovers' Page, where we add new tasting notes several times each week and frequently expand our selection of wine-appreciation articles, tips and tutorials.

If you'd like to talk about wine online with fellow wine enthusiasts around the world, we'd be delighted to have you join the interactive, international forums in our Wine Lovers' Discussion Group.

Vol. 3, No. 14, April 23, 2001

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