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Alcohol Content in Wine – The Debate du Jour – Who Cares?

The wine world is filled with a background drone which periodically elevates to a full-fledged din. Like the style of jeans, it’s fickle; one year it’s skinny jeans, the next it’s low-rise, then it’s bell-bottoms, and eventually, a variation of Levi’s 501’s are the thing again. The topic of the buzz changes every couple of years, but it’s always there humming away.

Currently, the wine glitterati cannot satiate itself over the subject of alcohol content in wine. There are essentially two concerns: 1) Vintners are consistently lying about the alcohol content in their wine (claiming it’s lower than it really is) and; 2) The increased alcohol content is ruining wine. Popular bloggers, renowned wine critics, and professional sommeliers are all weighing-in on the matter. The movie Sideways even took a swing at this topic. For some time, I’ve found myself champing at the bit to register my opinion. The other day, however, I read a blog post that encapsulated most of my feelings on the subject. It was written by Steve McIntosh of It was perhaps a bit angrier than I might have written it, but it hit a number of key points: In summary, this is much ado about nothing. The San Francisco Chronicle’s investigation has revealed far fewer offenders than the buzz alluded to, and the worst offender was off by 1.07%. Who cares? And if people are still enjoying wine at a slightly elevated alcohol content, who cares?

Which brings me to the point I would still like to make: Drink what you like. You are the consumer- the customer – trust your own palate. If you want to add an ice cube to your glass of wine, go for it. I’ve been in the wine business for twenty years now. I’ve tasted lower alcohol wines that finish hot, and higher alcohol wines that are perfectly balanced. At a recent event, I sampled a wine that was being lauded for its low alcohol content (12.7%) and for being organically grown. For me, it was so acidic and so out of balance, that it was nearly undrinkable. But that’s my opinion for my palate. As a winemaker, my goal is balance.

This is not Watergate. At the end of the day, jeans are still made of denim and some styles will fit you better than others. Don’t let others tell you what you should like. Trust yourself.

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2 Responses to Alcohol Content in Wine – The Debate du Jour – Who Cares?

  1. Steve says:

    Your summary is way better than mine: Drink what you like.

    I’m not angry so much as vexed by the wine glitterati’s focus on this topic. I guess when the news gets boring it’s easy to revert to these cyclical topics. Maybe the next debate du jour will be about the atroicities of blending anything into Pinot Noir. Again.

    Regardless, I’m glad to find a kindred spirit inside the wine community. I am loving your blog, by the way.


    • Hello Steve,

      Thanks for weighing in. My blog is very much a slow work in progress. I am constantly reading my favorites, like YOURS, looking for inspiration or even things that drive me crazy. We are right in the middle of a new website, with the blog being embedded in the site…thus the slight lack of regularity of posts and my slower response times to comments. I am also traveling a ton right now. Denver last week, North Carolina this week. Love traveling again, but crazy to witness all of he archaic alcohol laws in each market…definitely a post hiding in there somewhere. Sorry I missed your buddy last week in Denver. Hopefully our paths cross along the wine route sooner than later!


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