Lettie Teague's take on alcohol levels in wine

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Re: Lettie Teague's take on alcohol levels in wine

Post #51  Postby Richard T r i m p i » April 19th 2010, 6:15am

Cris Whetstone wrote:My sore spot with this subject is the pass Europe gets on it. I don't believe their labeling anymore than I believe the labels in the USA. Europe has an image to protect in regards to this and this very telling clip from the article shows why:

"he added that his rule didn't so much apply to European wines but to California producers who he thought had "pushed the envelope" in trying to get wines excessively ripe. "We need to support the producers who are trying to make leaner, lower-alcohol wines in California," he said."
Cris, I'm not sure who's giving Europeans a free "pass"? Clearly, both have producers of very ripe wines. The quote refers to "excessively ripe" and having "pushed the envelope". We'd need better definitions to really know what he meant. From my limited perspective, it seems that more Cali producers have been flirting with 16 - 17.5%+ levels than their European counterparts.

The trend towards bigger seems to be stabilizing. Supporting Cali producers of leaner, lower-alcohol wines seems like a good idea with respect to adding alternatives. In the end, the market will decide the producers and styles that survive.

RT

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Re: Lettie Teague's take on alcohol levels in wine

Post #52  Postby Linda Baehr » April 19th 2010, 1:11pm

Roberto Rogness wrote:Linda, serious question re the sugars: if you plant, say, Grenache, Pinot, Nebbiolo and Malbec side by side, won't they each have different sugar levels at any given time in response to the same inputs?

Otherwise why do Piemontese vignerons harvest Dolcetto, then Barbera, then Nebbiolo with a three to five week spread?


I guess I have a problem with her phrasing. To be precise, she should have made a comment about different grape varieties ripening at different rates. To say one grape variety is inherently higher than sugar than another is an imprecise statement. If you pick them all at 27 Brix, they all have the same sugar, regardless of when you picked them, no?
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Re: Lettie Teague's take on alcohol levels in wine

Post #53  Postby Roberto Rogness » April 19th 2010, 1:18pm

Yes, but isn't it a lot EASIER to get Zin or Grenache that ripe than Pinot or Nebbiolo?
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Re: Lettie Teague's take on alcohol levels in wine

Post #54  Postby Peter Kleban » April 19th 2010, 1:19pm

Linda Baehr wrote:
Roberto Rogness wrote:Linda, serious question re the sugars: if you plant, say, Grenache, Pinot, Nebbiolo and Malbec side by side, won't they each have different sugar levels at any given time in response to the same inputs?

Otherwise why do Piemontese vignerons harvest Dolcetto, then Barbera, then Nebbiolo with a three to five week spread?


I guess I have a problem with her phrasing. To be precise, she should have made a comment about different grape varieties ripening at different rates. To say one grape variety is inherently higher than sugar than another is an imprecise statement. If you pick them all at 27 Brix, they all have the same sugar, regardless of when you picked them, no?


Does the alcohol content also depend on how long you let the wine ferment? Or do you just let it go until it's done?
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Re: Lettie Teague's take on alcohol levels in wine

Post #55  Postby Linda Baehr » April 19th 2010, 1:29pm

Roberto Rogness wrote:Yes, but isn't it a lot EASIER to get Zin or Grenache that ripe than Pinot or Nebbiolo?


Grenache, not so much
If that is what she meant, she should have said it that way. I knew what she was getting at, she just didn't state it clearly.
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Re: Lettie Teague's take on alcohol levels in wine

Post #56  Postby Bob Wood » April 19th 2010, 1:31pm

Lettie has issues. She likes to write in a fashion that's designed to make people think she's a sophisticated wine drinker and a geek, when in fact she's woefully under-prepared and under-knowledgeable. Hence, she makes statements that either make her sound as though she's a true wine snob, or she makes sweeping generalizations that most of us would like to call her on.
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Re: Lettie Teague's take on alcohol levels in wine

Post #57  Postby Scott Manlin » April 19th 2010, 1:45pm

Bob Wood wrote:Lettie has issues. She likes to write in a fashion that's designed to make people think she's a sophisticated wine drinker and a geek, when in fact she's woefully under-prepared and under-knowledgeable. Hence, she makes statements that either make her sound as though she's a true wine snob, or she makes sweeping generalizations that most of us would like to call her on.


Not only is that patently false, it is absurd in its premise. She is neither a wine snob, nor a wine geek. She pretends at nothing and there isn't a pretentious bone in her body. While it is reasonable to have a quibble with the way some things are explained or presented, that quibble is stylistic, not substantive. To suggest that she is either under-prepared and under-knowledgeable is a clear demonstration of how little you know of her or her work.
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Re: Lettie Teague's take on alcohol levels in wine

Post #58  Postby Linda Baehr » April 19th 2010, 1:53pm

Peter Kleban wrote:
Linda Baehr wrote:
Roberto Rogness wrote:Linda, serious question re the sugars: if you plant, say, Grenache, Pinot, Nebbiolo and Malbec side by side, won't they each have different sugar levels at any given time in response to the same inputs?

Otherwise why do Piemontese vignerons harvest Dolcetto, then Barbera, then Nebbiolo with a three to five week spread?


I guess I have a problem with her phrasing. To be precise, she should have made a comment about different grape varieties ripening at different rates. To say one grape variety is inherently higher than sugar than another is an imprecise statement. If you pick them all at 27 Brix, they all have the same sugar, regardless of when you picked them, no?


Does the alcohol content also depend on how long you let the wine ferment? Or do you just let it go until it's done?



If you let (or if the yeaties allow) your juice go dry, textbook cases will give you a sugar/alcohol conversion rate of approx 0.59- so if your grapes are 25 Brix, you can count on ~14.75% alcohol. Of course, HOW dry your ferment goes, and other variables, can change that number. Sometimes your juice will be physiologically dry, but still have up to 0.25% RS. Sometimes a fermentation will stick if the grapes were extremely sweet. Then your alcohol will be less than the conversion rate, but it will more than likely still be high if the sugar was high enough to produce enough EtOH to kill your yeast.
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Re: Lettie Teague's take on alcohol levels in wine

Post #59  Postby Bob Wood » April 19th 2010, 2:09pm

Scott Manlin wrote:
Bob Wood wrote:Lettie has issues. She likes to write in a fashion that's designed to make people think she's a sophisticated wine drinker and a geek, when in fact she's woefully under-prepared and under-knowledgeable. Hence, she makes statements that either make her sound as though she's a true wine snob, or she makes sweeping generalizations that most of us would like to call her on.


Not only is that patently false, it is absurd in its premise. She is neither a wine snob, nor a wine geek. She pretends at nothing and there isn't a pretentious bone in her body. While it is reasonable to have a quibble with the way some things are explained or presented, that quibble is stylistic, not substantive. To suggest that she is either under-prepared and under-knowledgeable is a clear demonstration of how little you know of her or her work.
I can read, Scott, and that's all I need. I don't have to know Lettie personally for my BS detector to activate, and you're only proving my point when you state that she's neither a snob nor a geek. I didn't claim she was. What I said was that she writes in a fashion that's designed to make us think she is.

I'd suggest that perhaps you're too close to the situation to be objective.
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Re: Lettie Teague's take on alcohol levels in wine

Post #60  Postby Scott Manlin » April 19th 2010, 2:22pm

Bob Wood wrote:
Scott Manlin wrote:
Bob Wood wrote:Lettie has issues. She likes to write in a fashion that's designed to make people think she's a sophisticated wine drinker and a geek, when in fact she's woefully under-prepared and under-knowledgeable. Hence, she makes statements that either make her sound as though she's a true wine snob, or she makes sweeping generalizations that most of us would like to call her on.


Not only is that patently false, it is absurd in its premise. She is neither a wine snob, nor a wine geek. She pretends at nothing and there isn't a pretentious bone in her body. While it is reasonable to have a quibble with the way some things are explained or presented, that quibble is stylistic, not substantive. To suggest that she is either under-prepared and under-knowledgeable is a clear demonstration of how little you know of her or her work.
I can read, Scott, and that's all I need. I don't have to know Lettie personally for my BS detector to activate, and you're only proving my point when you state that she's neither a snob nor a geek. I didn't claim she was. What I said was that she writes in a fashion that's designed to make us think she is.

I'd suggest that perhaps you're too close to the situation to be objective.


Hardly. But her work extends WAY beyond her wine matters column. That is something you do not know a thing about. You comment to her intent. Yet you do not know her, have never met her, and haven't a clue about what her intent is. On the other hand, I am very familiar with her work, I know her quite well, have spent countless hours with her all over the country and in Europe and I know many of her friends. So yeah, I think I can speak to her intent. Heck, I just got off the phone with her. I can also say with certainty, objective certainty, you do not have the slightest idea of what you are talking about. I would make any bet that her knowledge of wine in both breadth and detail is so far beyond your own it would be laughable. For you to call her, comparatively, under-knowledgeable, is laughable.
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Re: Lettie Teague's take on alcohol levels in wine

Post #61  Postby Linda Baehr » April 19th 2010, 2:25pm

Calm down boys.

As a scientist, we strive for precision and accuracy. The way she phrased her point was imprecise. No need to argue her credentials.
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Re: Lettie Teague's take on alcohol levels in wine

Post #62  Postby Bob Wood » April 19th 2010, 2:32pm

Scott Manlin wrote:On the other hand, I am very familiar with her work, I know her quite well, have spent countless hours with her all over the country and in Europe and I know many of her friends. So yeah, I think I can speak to her intent. Heck, I just got off the phone with her.
As I said above, I'd suggest that perhaps you're too close to the situation to be objective.
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Re: Lettie Teague's take on alcohol levels in wine

Post #63  Postby Scott Manlin » April 19th 2010, 3:11pm

Bob Wood wrote:
Scott Manlin wrote:On the other hand, I am very familiar with her work, I know her quite well, have spent countless hours with her all over the country and in Europe and I know many of her friends. So yeah, I think I can speak to her intent. Heck, I just got off the phone with her.
As I said above, I'd suggest that perhaps you're too close to the situation to be objective.


As I said above, you haven't the slightest idea of what you are talking about.
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Re: Lettie Teague's take on alcohol levels in wine

Post #64  Postby Bob Wood » April 19th 2010, 3:18pm

Scott Manlin wrote:
Bob Wood wrote:
Scott Manlin wrote:On the other hand, I am very familiar with her work, I know her quite well, have spent countless hours with her all over the country and in Europe and I know many of her friends. So yeah, I think I can speak to her intent. Heck, I just got off the phone with her.
As I said above, I'd suggest that perhaps you're too close to the situation to be objective.


As I said above, you haven't the slightest idea of what you are talking about.
Fine. I'll be Jane. You be Aykroyd.



Which color do you prefer, Scott?

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Re: Lettie Teague's take on alcohol levels in wine

Post #65  Postby Lyle Fass » April 19th 2010, 3:19pm

I have no comment but all I'll say is this, this is not the first article that Lettie has written that has been intensely questioned. There is a pattern here.
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Re: Lettie Teague's take on alcohol levels in wine

Post #66  Postby Shaun Crowley » April 19th 2010, 3:21pm

+1 to Lyle.
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Re: Lettie Teague's take on alcohol levels in wine

Post #67  Postby Bob Wood » April 19th 2010, 3:22pm

Lyle Fass wrote:I have no comment but all I'll say is this, this is not the first article that Lettie has written that has been intensely questioned. There is a pattern here.
I'm sorry, Lyle, but you haven't the slightest idea what you're talking about. Neither do you, Shaun. headbang
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Re: Lettie Teague's take on alcohol levels in wine

Post #68  Postby Scott Manlin » April 19th 2010, 3:23pm

Bob Wood wrote: Fine. I'll be Jane. You be Aykroyd.



Jane, you ignorant slut.
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Re: Lettie Teague's take on alcohol levels in wine

Post #69  Postby Linda Baehr » April 19th 2010, 3:33pm

Bob is a sluuuuut, Bob is a sluuut. neener
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Re: Lettie Teague's take on alcohol levels in wine

Post #70  Postby Bob Wood » April 19th 2010, 3:34pm

Scott Manlin wrote:
Bob Wood wrote: Fine. I'll be Jane. You be Aykroyd.



Jane, you ignorant slut.
"Dan, you self-important swine-ass." Didn't watch, did you?
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Re: Lettie Teague's take on alcohol levels in wine

Post #71  Postby Shaun Crowley » April 19th 2010, 3:36pm

Bob.

Your last name is wood. Your first name is Bob.


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Re: Lettie Teague's take on alcohol levels in wine

Post #72  Postby Lyle Fass » April 19th 2010, 4:02pm

Bob Wood wrote:
Lyle Fass wrote:I have no comment but all I'll say is this, this is not the first article that Lettie has written that has been intensely questioned. There is a pattern here.
I'm sorry, Lyle, but you haven't the slightest idea what you're talking about. Neither do you, Shaun. headbang


Hey if that's a joke then......Ha Ha.
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Re: Lettie Teague's take on alcohol levels in wine

Post #73  Postby Peter Kleban » April 19th 2010, 4:08pm

Linda Baehr wrote:Calm down boys.

As a scientist, we strive for precision and accuracy. The way she phrased her point was imprecise. No need to argue her credentials.



Linda, what you trying to do? Spoil the fun?? Next thing, these guys will need a spanking [wink.gif] .
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Re: Lettie Teague's take on alcohol levels in wine

Post #74  Postby Peter Kleban » April 19th 2010, 4:10pm

Linda Baehr wrote:
Peter Kleban wrote:
Linda Baehr wrote:
Roberto Rogness wrote:Linda, serious question re the sugars: if you plant, say, Grenache, Pinot, Nebbiolo and Malbec side by side, won't they each have different sugar levels at any given time in response to the same inputs?

Otherwise why do Piemontese vignerons harvest Dolcetto, then Barbera, then Nebbiolo with a three to five week spread?


I guess I have a problem with her phrasing. To be precise, she should have made a comment about different grape varieties ripening at different rates. To say one grape variety is inherently higher than sugar than another is an imprecise statement. If you pick them all at 27 Brix, they all have the same sugar, regardless of when you picked them, no?


Does the alcohol content also depend on how long you let the wine ferment? Or do you just let it go until it's done?



If you let (or if the yeaties allow) your juice go dry, textbook cases will give you a sugar/alcohol conversion rate of approx 0.59- so if your grapes are 25 Brix, you can count on ~14.75% alcohol. Of course, HOW dry your ferment goes, and other variables, can change that number. Sometimes your juice will be physiologically dry, but still have up to 0.25% RS. Sometimes a fermentation will stick if the grapes were extremely sweet. Then your alcohol will be less than the conversion rate, but it will more than likely still be high if the sugar was high enough to produce enough EtOH to kill your yeast.


Thanks, L. You're telling me what the maximum possible ABV is, given the Brix. But is it possible to control the fermentation, I mean stop it short of the max value? Can you dial that--ie, if the max is 14.75, can you make it stop at 14, or 13.5, etc?
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Re: Lettie Teague's take on alcohol levels in wine

Post #75  Postby Scott Manlin » April 19th 2010, 4:30pm

Bob Wood wrote:
Scott Manlin wrote:
Bob Wood wrote: Fine. I'll be Jane. You be Aykroyd.



Jane, you ignorant slut.
"Dan, you self-important swine-ass." Didn't watch, did you?


Nope. But then again name calling is your forte, I prefer ideas...let me know when you get some.
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Re: Lettie Teague's take on alcohol levels in wine

Post #76  Postby Bruce G » April 19th 2010, 5:08pm

Bob Wood wrote:Lettie has issues. She likes to write in a fashion that's designed to make people think she's a sophisticated wine drinker and a geek, when in fact she's woefully under-prepared and under-knowledgeable. Hence, she makes statements that either make her sound as though she's a true wine snob, or she makes sweeping generalizations that most of us would like to call her on.


Interesting... I've always found her writing style to be the exact opposite: self-deprecating, full of over-simplification and caricaturish portrayals of real-life people.
Rather than come across as snobbish, she always strikes me as someone writing about wine for beginners, apologetic, far too afraid of providing a deeper treatment of the subject at hand.
On another board somebody described it as 'playing to the "I'm into wine but I don't really have time to learn about it" crowd', which sounds about right.

And, as Lyle implies, most of her work is probably best read as fiction.
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Re: Lettie Teague's take on alcohol levels in wine

Post #77  Postby Linda Baehr » April 19th 2010, 5:32pm

Peter Kleban wrote:
Thanks, L. You're telling me what the maximum possible ABV is, given the Brix. But is it possible to control the fermentation, I mean stop it short of the max value? Can you dial that--ie, if the max is 14.75, can you make it stop at 14, or 13.5, etc?



Absolutely. In cases (especially) of white wines, some people want to leave some RS (many people around here like to make a sweet or off-dry Viognier, or sweet Rieslings, etc.), you can do several things to stop a fermentation at the sugar level you desire- you can turn the chiller down on the tank your wine is in, killing the yeast with cold temp, you can sterile filter at the desired sugar level, etc. We also make a Zin port, and we not only chill the tank, but we add Brandy to kill the yeast.

Of course, if you are only stopping the ferm to get to your desired EtOH level, the sugar will be coming along with it.
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Re: Lettie Teague's take on alcohol levels in wine

Post #78  Postby ybarselah » April 19th 2010, 5:33pm

this being the 600th article written on high-alcohol wines in the past year, it was an abject failure of epic proportions. there is absolutely no there there.

i gotta think that rupert is having second thoughts on the new wine writers.
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Re: Lettie Teague's take on alcohol levels in wine

Post #79  Postby Bob Wood » April 19th 2010, 5:37pm

Scott Manlin wrote:
Bob Wood wrote:
Scott Manlin wrote:
Bob Wood wrote: Fine. I'll be Jane. You be Aykroyd.



Jane, you ignorant slut.
"Dan, you self-important swine-ass." Didn't watch, did you?


But then again name calling is your forte
[rofl.gif] Maybe you need to read the thread again.
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Re: Lettie Teague's take on alcohol levels in wine

Post #80  Postby Peter Kleban » April 19th 2010, 5:44pm

ybarselah wrote:this being the 600th article written on high-alcohol wines in the past year, it was an abject failure of epic proportions. there is absolutely no there there.

i gotta think that rupert is having second thoughts on the new wine writers.


You really think so? Most of the people who read the WSJ (like most people, period) have very little wine knowledge. The crowd here is a very very select group. So LS' article will be news to most readers, and I can see a certain appeal in it to the crowd that wants to know a bit more about wine and its vagaries.
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Re: Lettie Teague's take on alcohol levels in wine

Post #81  Postby Cris Whetstone » April 19th 2010, 10:20pm

Peter Kleban wrote:
ybarselah wrote:this being the 600th article written on high-alcohol wines in the past year, it was an abject failure of epic proportions. there is absolutely no there there.

i gotta think that rupert is having second thoughts on the new wine writers.


You really think so? Most of the people who read the WSJ (like most people, period) have very little wine knowledge. The crowd here is a very very select group. So LS' article will be news to most readers, and I can see a certain appeal in it to the crowd that wants to know a bit more about wine and its vagaries.

In light of that I would hope she would be more careful to present the issue carefully and present both sides in an educating manner versus one that paints a very black and white picture of a very complex issue.

The failure may not be epic but it is there.
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Re: Lettie Teague's take on alcohol levels in wine

Post #82  Postby Peter Kleban » April 20th 2010, 5:59am

Cris Whetstone wrote:
Peter Kleban wrote:
ybarselah wrote:this being the 600th article written on high-alcohol wines in the past year, it was an abject failure of epic proportions. there is absolutely no there there.

i gotta think that rupert is having second thoughts on the new wine writers.


You really think so? Most of the people who read the WSJ (like most people, period) have very little wine knowledge. The crowd here is a very very select group. So LS' article will be news to most readers, and I can see a certain appeal in it to the crowd that wants to know a bit more about wine and its vagaries.

In light of that I would hope she would be more careful to present the issue carefully and present both sides in an educating manner versus one that paints a very black and white picture of a very complex issue.

The failure may not be epic but it is there.


I agree with that, Yaacov. But I don't think she is trying to be careful and complete. She's trying to write something that the average WSJ reader will find of interest. A rather different goal.
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Re: Lettie Teague's take on alcohol levels in wine

Post #83  Postby Richard T r i m p i » April 20th 2010, 6:33am

Peter Kleban wrote:..But I don't think she is trying to be careful and complete. She's trying to write something that the average WSJ reader will find of interest. A rather different goal.
Matt Kramer gets skewered by (we) uber-geeks for the same thing. Overly detailed analyses would probably cost Lettie her job. Judging the preferences of her readership is something she's doubtlessly more qualified at doing than most of us.

RT
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Re: Lettie Teague's take on alcohol levels in wine

Post #84  Postby Peter Kleban » April 20th 2010, 7:27am

Richard T r i m p i wrote:
Peter Kleban wrote:..But I don't think she is trying to be careful and complete. She's trying to write something that the average WSJ reader will find of interest. A rather different goal.
Matt Kramer gets skewered by (we) uber-geeks for the same thing. Overly detailed analyses would probably cost Lettie her job. Judging the preferences of her readership is something she's doubtlessly more qualified at doing than most of us.

RT


Right. But we should complain and point out what's missing, I don't mean to knock that. Always in favor of more and better info...
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Re: Lettie Teague's take on alcohol levels in wine

Post #85  Postby G. D y e r » April 20th 2010, 8:27am

Lyle Fass wrote:I have no comment but all I'll say is this, this is not the first article that Lettie has written that has been intensely questioned. There is a pattern here.


Then it sounds like she's doing a bang up job as a columnist. I'm sure most newspapers would be extremely happy if any op-ed piece caused a passionate stir.

Then again, I do like her articles. They're not analytical, nor do they probe into the geeky depths of any particular wine region. But they do tap into the psychology of wine. There was one article where she punk'd some collectors by putting a good Washington wine into a Mouton bottle or something like it. I read another where she went about trying to 'get' Barolo, and the journey was more interesting than the destination. There's a certain freshness to her style I enjoy. I think she knows her stuff, but takes angles that raise more questions than they answer.

And so now she bring up high alcohol. It doesn't get much more psychological than this. Just like anything on the label, a drinker has his expectations cued by what is written. I'd love to see a crowd of people be told a 13% wine was really 15.5% and let the sparks fly! But it's also true that when it comes to wine, the myths are more than half-truths. The best producers, the top appellations, the greatest vintages are all on average better than their peers. And so its the case with high ABV. It's subject to expectations and there are balanced high ABV wines. But usually that 15%+ is evident on a sensory level. In terms of body, almost always. In terms of heat, often enough to be more than a nuisance.
Greg

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