So lets start at the beginning… as good a place as any to start… Fermentation is basically when the sugars ferment with yeast to create alcohol- nothing to out of the blue there it happens all the time! Elephants actually sniff out fruit that’s fallen from trees and has fermented, just to get their buzz on! Just like our friend here, who looks a bit like Babar after a few too many beers and doner kebabs. So alcohol is perfectly natural occurence and if it wasn’t in wine it would just be grape juice (which- let’s be honest nobody really wants…) However, the more sunshine a climate gets, the more sugars it will have in its grapes and therefore the more the yeast has to ferment with and before you know it you’ve got a wine that’s around the 15%  mark… Now one thing I’ve always taken as a given with wine is that no matter how high the alcohol is- if the wine is made right then it will be smooth and you won’t notice the alcohol at all…. well while you’re drinking it at least, the next day then yes you prob will! But that’s just the point isn’t it? Who cares if you don’t taste it while you’re drinking it if the next day its going to take you 3 hours to fully wake up??

Now, certain climates that do not get enough sunshine are allowed add sugar for the yeast to ferment with. This is a perfectly accepted practice and there’s nothing unusual about it! But ut the fact of the matter is- I’d say 1 in 4 people who come asking for wine, are specifically looking for a wine that doesn’t have high alcohol content. So people are getting sick of the high alcohol content FACT! So wine makers are responding to this fact (We’ll get back to how on the next blog) but then there’s the flip side of the argument…

Certainly there are wines that do not need to be high in alcohol- anything higher than 12 percent and they run the risk of being thrown off-balance. But, what about the wines that need to have that extra little bit of  alcohol?? Certainly a little extra alcohol won’t hurt a big grape like Cabernet Sauvignon with its big tannins and full flavours… if you didn’t have a high enough alcohol in that wine then wouldn’t it just be slighty flimsy and thrown off-balance???  So if they are intentionally reducing the alcohol content are they then not denying the wine its natural flavour??? Take for example the French- say they started (and they have) restricting the amount of alcohol that would naturally be in their wine, wouldn’t that then go against their entire philosophy of terroir? How can the natural expression of a region shine through if you have measures in place to restrict the natural process???

Having said all that though- its amazing the difference a drop in alcohol can make… and not really make… if that makes sense… Let me give you an example. Last year one of our best-selling wines was the Eternum Viti Toro 2007- a really nice wine that was incredible value! it weighed in around 14.5%. The 2008 vintage has been dropped by .5% which means they’ve had to go for an entirely new style! The result is a wine that is still full-bodied and smooth- but its a completely different style, and a completely different Wine all together.

So after rambling on about it for a while now I guess I should have some sort of opinion on it… I think I’m prob more confused now than when I started! Basically I think that if a climate gets enough sun to create wines that are around 15% then why should the producer shy away from keeping this wine that high?? (Only and I add Only!! If the producer is still capable of creating a balanced smooth wine at this percentage!) But at the end of the day all it really comes down to is Style- not terroir, not grape variety, not region, not even alcohol percentage! So like Eternum Viti if they feel a drop in alcohol is necessary then there better be a style that will go with it! Essentially I trust the Wine producers- I do! They are the ones who are creating a wine for us to enjoy (if we don’t enjoy it then we don’t buy it again- simple!) So in fairness I kinda think that this debate about alcohol is mute… I think that the Alcohol should have little or no influence on the choices we make as consumers- with the obvious clause of being responsible with your alcohol intake!- why someone would pass up a truly exceptional wine for something that is entirely different to what they are looking for purely based on the alcohol content…. just doesn’t make sense to me…

No obviously I’m not afraid to admit when I’m being totally wrong! And it may very well turn out that I am wrong about a load of this stuff…. but all I ask is that you call me on it! Feel free to leave comments because at the end of the day this is a topic that relates directly to you consumers!