High on Alcohol

The Sonoma Press Democrat's Wineblog had an interesting piece today. Randy Dunn, California Zin Guru and the winemaker behind some great Howell Mountain vintages is has written an open letter chiding wineries for letting alcohol content get out of hand.

This is a very interesting development. Influential wine critics (like Robert Parker) are blamed for imposing their personal tasting preferences on wine. A Parker rating of 90 points will generate a hundred times the sales of a rating of 89, and it's well-understood that he favours very fruity, under-structured reds with very high alcohol levels. As a consequence more and more commercial wines are coming in at 15-16% alcohol. To achieve the sugar levels necessary to produce this much alcohol, grapes have to be left on the vine until they're nearly raisiny-ripe. This leads to soft tannins, low acid and cooked, 'jammy' fruit.

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Gone Drinking

I've been doing the same job for fifteen years, so I may have forgotten how other people's work days go--doesn't everyone have to drink for a couple of hours in the middle of the day?

Seriously, we have to do a bunch of tasting for the upcoming Limited Edition candidates tomorrow. We'll be tasting some early prototype kits against commercial wines, and also some commercial wines that are candidates for further LE's, and some for the next Limited season.

It's actually less fun than it sounds. When I'm drinking for pleasure I'm usually sitting in a comfy chair with some music playing, there's good snacks, my wife is there to talk to, and the cats are in the background folding laundry or arranging music, or whatever it is they do on their own time.

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Choosing Limited Edition

I was talking with Al McGee, one of Winexpert's friendly sales representatives, the other day and he thought it would be a good idea to put out a newsletter article about how we chose the varieties for our Limited Edition kits every year. At first I wasn't sure, because the way we make the actual choice is mundane: we argue. Shoutiest person doesn't actually win, but the most persuasive case that can be made for a cool and interesting variety has to have a champion pushing for it. But the way we come up with the candidates is actually kind of neat.

For those of you who haven't tried an LE kit, once a year we make three red and two white wine kits in a very limited production run. We release them for sale (a red and a white in January, and then one a month) and they're all gone by April. We strongly encourage people to pre-order so they don't face disappointment: every year there are hundreds of folks who wait a little too long to choose, and they miss out. C'est la guerre!

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New Toothpaste for Wine Drinkers

Anyone who has drank young Bordeaux or blockbuster California reds has experienced purple-tooth syndrome, but regular wine drinkers may experience another problem--wine has between five and seven grams of acid per litre, enough to soften and penetrate tooth enamel over the long term.

However, it turns out that there's a cure for that: according to the Globe and Mail, Canadians are flocking to new toothpaste designed for wine drinkers.

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Blogging About Wine

Ahem. Is this thing on?

Congratulations! For some reason you've stumbled upon a wine blog. If you're already making your own wine, you probably don't need to have much explained, but if you stumbled on this blog out of the blue , you're probably wondering what's the deal, and why the guy looking through the wineglass up there has such an enormous forehead.

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Getting to Know Tim

Tim Vandergrift is Winexpert's Technical Services Manager. The title sort of makes him sound like a computer guy, but he's actually responsible for knowing about consumer-produced wine, and explaining it. He teaches wine appreciation and winemaking, is a regular columnist for Winemaker Magazine, Publican Magazine, and publishes in other wine and beer related journals, including the Oxford Companion to Wine.

His background is in the food and beverage industry, as a chef-de-partie in a French brigade kitchen, a Wine Steward, a menu design consultant, and a resort manager. He began making his own beer and wine at the age of 15, when he discovered a homebrew shop in his hometown that would sell to minors. His wines have won gold, silver, and bronze medals in world amateur winemaking competitions, and he was Winemaker Magazine's Winemaker of the year in 2003.

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