Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Is Frank Sutherland wrong? What is a "low-alcohol wine?"

This morning following my usual routine, I picked up my newspaper and read the news of the day. Despite at times being disgusted with The Tennessean, I cannot break the newspaper habit. I love my newspaper first thing in the morning.

After scanning the news of day and the editorial page, I turned to the other sections and was greeted by Frank Sutherland's Wine in Nashville column. The headline read, "Lower-alcohol wines still quite lovely."

I always enjoy Frank's column. However, the time he described a white wine as having the aroma of "dusty tomato stems" it made me wonder if he was just waxing poetic or if he really knew his wine. Also, when he described a wine palate as "Texas Grapefruit", I thought that was pretty amazing the he could specify "Texas" grapefruit as opposed to Florida or California grapefruit.

I am not a wine expert, but I like wine. I like drinking it mostly, but I like wine tastings, Wine on the River, reading wine reviews and wine labels. I enjoy shopping for wine. I normally hate to shop. I only shop when I have to. I never understood how people could just shop for pleasure, but I love a trip to the liquor store. Anyway, as I turned to Frank's column on lower-alcohol wines, I expected to read about wines in the 9% to 11% range. That is what I think of when I think about lower-alcohol wines. I was surprised. Frank reviewed five wines and one of them had a 12.5% alcohol rating, one a 12.85% and three had 13% alcohol content.

I don't really think a 13% alcohol wine is low-alcohol. I thought I would see what is on my wine shelf. My wife has developed a taste for sweeter wines and I know that sweeter wines have less alcohol and more residual sugar than drier wines, so I knew a random sampling of my wine cabinet would reveal some sweeter wines; still, I thought that 13% alcohol is not a low-alcohol wine. Here is what I found by just randomly pulling out a few wine bottles:

  • Gissen East Coast Riesling, 9.5%. Now that is low-alcohol.
  • Mathew Fox Merlot, 12%
  • Vino de laTierra de Casltilla, 14%. This is a red Spanish wine made from about seven different varietals.
  • Walnut Crest Melot, 13%
  • Barton & Guestier Cabernet Sauvignon, a French vin de pays d'oc, 13%
  • Wilhelm Bergman, Mosel-Saar-Ruwar. Riesling Qualitatswein. 8.5%. Now that is really lower-alcohol wine, however it is quite sweet.
  • Sea Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon, 12.5%
  • La Rustia, Erbaluce Di Caluso, 12.5% . This is a white Italian V.Q.P.R.D. wine and I love this wine. It is a rare find at the price I am willing to pay. I wish I would have bought all they had when I found it.
So, maybe my wine cabinet is not typical but I have cruised the wine shelves for years and I am not convinced that 13% alcohol content classifies a wine as "low-alcohol." I think that to get much above 14% you are into fortified wines.

Does Frank Sutherland know what he is talking about? Do I need a new wine guru? How do you apply to be on Frank's wine review panel.

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