100 Point Wines Other than Bordeaux vs. Bordeaux 100 Point Wines – OUCH!

100 Point Wines from Regions other than Bordeaux

100 Point Wines from Regions other than Bordeaux, Click to see a larger image so you can read the text

 

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100 Point Bordeaux. Click to see a larger image so you can read the text

This information was forwarded to me by my Republic National Distributing Company (RNDC) Fine Wine Rep.

The price differential between Bordeaux and anywhere not Bordeaux at this level is dramatic.

What’s in the Bottle? Alcohol Percentages and What They Tell You About a Wine

As you browse the countless offerings in your favorite wine shop, selecting the right bottle can be daunting.  Sure,  one bottle says Cabernet Sauvignon, the other says Chardonnay – Red or white is easy. Beyond that,  short of the description that sometimes appears on the back wine label, there is little to shed light on what is in the bottle. However, another important clue can be found on every bottle – ABV (Alcohol by Volume) .  Tutorial: Wine Label Requirements

It seems that some wineries want to hide this information.   Stated ABV of a wine is often written in microscopic type or in a color barely perceptible against the background of the label. (I often ask customers with presumably better eyesight than I if they can read it for me).  Other than the sense of accomplishment you may feel at times when you’ve found the ABV, this information provides consistent clues to the style of wine that is in the bottle.  Below is a breakdown of these clues:

Mouthfeel –

First, wine consists of around 80 – 90% water.  Most of the remainder is alcohol.  Alcohol is a more viscous liquid than water.  So a wine with higher alcohol levels will be heavier on the palette.  If you have ever had a wine with really low alcohol, like Vino Verde, which is usually around 9% ABV, the wine seems light with a consistency that some would describe as “watery”.  A Chardonnay with 14.5 ABV will seem richer and fuller..

Acidity –

Bear with me through a little bit of wine techno-babble.  Hopefully, it will help you to understand the “why” in the clues that follow.

Ripeness levels (i.e. sugar levels) in grapes determine the potential ABV of a wine.  Wines made from grapes with greater ripeness that are fermented to dryness will have higher alcohol levels than wines made from less-ripe grapes.  As a grape ripens and the sugar levels rise, acidity levels fall. So, acidity in wine is inversely proportionate to the alcohol level.  Although winemakers can manipulate the wine through acidification (adding tartaric acid), wines with higher alcohol levels will generally will have lower total acidity than those with lower alcohol levels. (I hope this makes sense)

What does all this mean?  The answer is different for whites and reds.

While different varietals will all have their unique flavor profile, generally speaking, a white wine with lower alcohol/higher acidity will often express more citrus and green notes.  Some of these aromas and flavors could be lime, lemon, gooseberry, green fruits such as green apple or green melon rind.  A wine with high acidity will also “tweak” the acid receptors on the sides of your tongue.  High acid will make your mouth water, like biting a lemon.  You will often hear sommeliers talk about a wine having “good acidity”.  This reference speaks to the fact that wines with high acidity make great companions to food as the acid will help flavors in the wine to remain focused when combined with food.

White wines with higher alcohol/lower acidity will often express tropical fruits such as tangerine, pineapple, and guava and riper expressions of apple, pear, and melon.  They will generally be softer, easier-drinking offerings.  With this said, they may not be as versatile with food.

In red wines the acid spectrum runs from red fruits on high-acid end of the spectrum to blue fruits on the lower end of the spectrum.  So a Cabernet Sauvignon with 13.5% ABV would tend to express more red currants and cherry where a Cabernet with 14.5% ABV or above would express more dark fruits like cassis and black berry.  Lower alcohol levels can also lead to the expression of green notes like mint, green olive, and eucalyptus.  It can also give rise to more earthy characteristics that might otherwise be masked by ripe fruit.  Predicting acidity base on ABV is a particularly useful tool when comparing wines made from the same varietal, or from a blend, varietal, or appellation that have a flavor profile that you are familiar with.

Of course, observing the ABV alone is not a foolproof means of predicting what’s in a bottle.  It is impossilbe to account for the presence of oak, the extent of malolactic fermentation in white wines, or other manipulations such as acidification and dilution.  Any of these things can skew the evidence.  Also, winemakers are allowed some leeway between the stated ABV and actual ABV.  Since ABV will vary in different barrels and lots of wine, alcohol levels below 14% have can have a ± 1.5.%, and wines above 14% alcohol can have a variance of ± 1%.  Even with all the variables,  I have found that if you pay attention to alcohol percentage in the wines that speak to you, you will find this bit of information an extremely useful tool to help you choose the right wine for you.