High Alcohol Wines
July 12, 2011
It’s no mystery that Wine contains alcohol- if it didn’t it would just be grape juice! Lately though I’ve had one or two people coming in looking for low alcohol wine… inevitably this got me thinking about the differing percentages in wine! Why does wine need alcohol in the first place? Well to put it simply- there are several parts of wine which can help to make it suitable to age. There’s the tannins, the acidity, but also the alcohol plays a big role!
The alcohol is created by fermentation of the sugars in the grape juice; either by adding yeast, or the juice can be left to it own devices and the natural yeast from the vineyard will ferment the grape juice to wine.The level of alcohol reached depends on the grape variety, some grapes have more sugar content than others and the ripeness of the grapes. So because the sugars play a role in how much alcohol there will be in your glass of red or white, hotter climates (ie New World) where the grapes ripen fuller, will generally have higher alcohol content. This is because the amount of Sunlight affects the sugar levels of the grapes, and the more sugar there is to ferment with, the more alcohol there will inevitably be! Simples.
The trick is how a winemaker deals with this higher alcohol like anything that is made up of several parts it is essential that these parts are in balance, if not the whole thing is ruined, a simple example is an ordinary mug of tea too much sugar or milk and your mug of tea is ruined! In the old world they have been making high alcohol wines such as Amarone and Chateaunuef-du-Pape for years and are more familiar with how to craft a silky yet powerful wine, that said there are many a skilled Aussie and South American winemaker out there crafting intense and velvety high alcohol wines. Whether you like it or not higher alcohol wines are here to stay even in some of the more traditional parts of the world – global warming is affecting the whole plant, who knows in 100 years time wines from the west coast of this green Island maybe in demand! On second thoughts it probably still be too wet!!