Is the newest vintage always outstanding, or can it in fact once in a while be true?

Hopes rise for the Rhône 2015 vintage

word from friends in France, our preferred vineyards, and our friends’ favorite vineyards is that this is pretty much the common sentiment – it’s the first really decent year they’ve had in a while.

Meaning what? It’s been cool enough that they can produce some wines under 14%?

That the vines have been mostly healthy and havent been ravaged by late frosts, torrential rains, or crushed by hailstorms. The vines arent as stressed this year, so the grapes have better flavor.

Not a great year for volume, but they’re feeling better about the quality.

Robert? What is “magical” about 14 percent abv? You and I have both had wines above that number that were hot and harsh on the palate, and wines at 14+ percent that were smooth, supple, and showed no trace of heat. And we’ve also had wines that were <14% that were smooth, supple and showed no trace of heat, as well as wines below 14% that hot and harsh on the palate.

It’s not the number; it’s the wine.


À chacun son goût. Reasonably priced Côtes du Rhônes typically have 10-25% more alcohol than they did 15-20 years ago and primarily for that reason I almost never taste one I like any more.

Robert, both of us have many years of experience when it comes to wine, both in and out of the trade. Name three types of well-known table wine (e.g.: Côtes du Rhône, Barolo, Chardonnay from Australia, etc.) that don’t “typically have 10-25% more alcohol than they did 15-20 years ago.” (For purposes of this discussion, can we ignore the various technical [and artificial] ways of removing alcohol from a wine?)

For myself, at 6:15 a.m. on a Thursday morning, I can’t think of any. Perhaps something like Txakoli, but I wasn’t drinking that 15-20 years ago, so I honestly don’t know. But even wines known for being “light[er]” – Beaujolais, Bardolino, Muscadet, etc. – are heavier in alcohol today than in days gone by. Heck, even most rosés and White Zinfandel are higher!

As I’ve mentioned before (on another network), in the time I worked in the trade, the “conversion rate” for sugar into alcohol has risen from S ÷ 2 = A (24° Brix × 2 = 12.0% abv.), to S × 0.55 = A (24° Brix × 0.55 = 13.2% abv), to as high as S × 0.6 = A (24° Brix × 0.6 = 14.4% abv). I’ve personally experienced a 0.62 rate (24° Brix × 0.6 = 14.88% abv) when making a California Chardonnay, and someone once told me they had a conversion of .65! That would equal 15.6%, but I wasn’t working at that winery, so I cannot personally attest to it.

By the way, the “divide by two” and “multiply by 0.55” figures both come from UC Davis (two different editions of the same textbook). Rates above that have happened at various wineries where I was employed.

À chacun son goût indeed, but how many wines sold today are still 12.5% IN FACT (i.e.: we both know that labels are misleading.)

Lots of appellations where the wines were typically 11-12.5% 20 years ago are typically 14% today. That’s an increase of 12-27%.

And so . . . I’m guessing that a) you can’t (easily) name three types of wine that do not “typically have 10-25% more alcohol than they did 15-20 years ago,” and b) that you aren’t drinking any of those wines, either. Is that right?

Most of the everyday wines I used to drink: California reds and whites, Rhône and Tuscan reds. (Zinfandel was always higher of course.)

So, in other words, most of the wines you drink are near or above 14% abv . . .

No, that’s the opposite of what I said.

I don’t know, Robert – this is turning into one of those weird, slippery, can’t-pin-you-down conversations you and I seem to get into once or twice a year . . . let me see if I understand you, because I’m no longer sure I do.

  1. You reference alcohol and quality together by asking if 2015 was cool enough in the Rhône that “they can [finally] produce some wines under 14%”?
  2. You then state that “reasonably priced Côtes-du-Rhônestypically have 10-25% more alcohol than they did 15-20 years ago” and that is a primary reason you don’t taste any that you like.
  3. You expand that beyond CdR’s by saying many wines “were typically 11-12.5% 20 years ago are typically 14% today,” adding that is a 12-27% increase in two decades.
  4. When I ask you to name three types of wines that haven’t increased in alcohol, you can’t.

So what am I left to conclude, Robert? It appears you are one of the few people on the planet who a) takes abv percentages as 1) accurate, and 2) crucial to a wine’s enjoyment; and b) have never tasted a table wine at 14.0 or above that was any good. Is that an accurate assessment? (Personally, I doubt it, but I suppose it’s possible.) Do you really look at a label and think to yourself, Uh-oh, it’s 14.1% abv. I’d be better off with that wine – the label says it’s only 12.8?!?!?

Alcohol levels have gone up (fact), I don’t like the results (personal taste). Repeating yourself won’t change the facts or bring my taste closer to yours.

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Who here is trying to change facts? Robert, could you point out to me where I have said – even hinted – that alcohol levels have NOT gone up? Indeed, I am the only one who provided concrete (and cited) examples as proof that they have.

You say you don’t like the results. Fine. I, too, would prefer that the alcohol levels in wines go back to “those thrilling days of yesteryear,” as they say. (I have no idea where you seem to have gotten the idea that I prefer wines with high(er) alcohol – again, I’d like you to point out where I said that.) But then, despite my asking, you cannot name three appellations and/or wine types that have not gone up – nor do you mention what what wines you do drink that are low in alcohol.

I have no interest in bringing your taste – or anyone else’s – closer to my own, and I have neither suggested nor attempted to do so. I have, however, asked you some rather simple questions (or so I thought), which you have refused to answer directly.

OK. Whatever. Like I said,

You’re responding at length to things I haven’t said.

I buy a lot of Muscadet, Chinon, Saumur, and Bourgueil for everyday drinking these days. The Loire isn’t immune to the high alcohol fad, but it seems to be less common.