Monday, September 27, 2010

Warmer Weather and Higher Alcohol. (Longue-Dog)

Taking a look around your local liquor store you may notice an interesting new trend in wine; high alcohol content.  A little over a decade ago the alcohol content of a wine would often be around 12 – 13%.  These days it seems there are more and more wines on the shelves with knock out levels of 14 – 15% and sometimes even higher.  A recent article in Wine & Spirits notes figures from the American TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau) to back up this observation.  In 1995 the amount of wine with 14% alcohol and higher was about 6% of total wine, now in 2010 the figure sits at just under 10%.

There are a plethora of reasons cited for the increasing alcohol content of wine: changing tastes in the market, different grape growing techniques, big high alcohol wines consistently scoring higher points, and global warming.  While all of these may be a factor in the recent prevalence of high alcohol wines, none seem more exciting for the Canadian wine industry than global warming.  While global warming is set to wreak a lot of havoc on the planet it just might come in handy for the Canadian wine industry.  According to Gregory V. Jones, who I, like Wine & Spirits magazine, would like to point out has a PhD, the growing seasons in wine regions around the world have seen a 1.3°C increase in temperature over the last 50 years.

The increase in temperature causes grapes to become more fully ripe.  A more ripe grape has more sugar.  The more sugar a grape has at harvest directly translates into the amount of alcohol that can be produced during fermentation.

The increase in temperature has seen many wine regions producing very high alcohol wine.  Bordeaux has seen a huge increase; many of the 2009’s tip the scales at 14.5% or higher.  For tax reasons you may not actually see many wines that say they’re over 14.5% as taxes increase when a wine surpasses this bracket, so forgive the producers if they take certain liberties with labeling, just be careful if you have to work the next day.   While Australia often serves up such strong wine, historically it is uncommon for Bordeaux to see such strength.  It would seem Bordeaux is in the running for the new Australia.

What does this mean for Canada?  Well if Bordeaux is the new Australia that means there is an opening for the new Bordeaux.  Ontario is a cool climate wine region, BC is amongst the most northerly in the world, and Nova Scotia is not generally regarded as a fair weather province to put it gently, but all this may be changing as we continue to drive SUV’s.  It’s not necessarily a bad thing to be known as the cold place that grapes grown, but given the weather is it any surprise the only internationally known wine to come out of Canada is icewine?

Global warming may ultimately prove to be un-enjoyable however the Canadian wine industry may see some delicious benefits.  I certainly know what I will be drinking to make the warm weather a little more palatable, and it ain’t gonna be icewine.


Given the previous article it seems a little ironic that I am not going to post a review of a Canadian wine.  The thing is my wine cellar (closet) is relatively small and the only Canadian wine I have in it is relatively expensive and I was a little tired tonight; I didn't feel like cracking out the ritzy stuff.  Here's France:

Wine: Longue-Dog

Grape: Grenache and Syrah (shiraz)

Region: Languedoc, France

Year: 2009

Alcohol: 13.5% 

Price:  $11.99

Aroma: Pepper, raspberry, vanilla

Taste: Pepper, raspberry, floral, chocolate, vanilla

Notes: Nice fairly light bodied wine with a soft and silky texture.  The texture is a very nice feature of this wine.

Final Verdict: A nice soft round wine with enjoyable flavours and a very nice texture.  Overall this wine gets a B+ for the its price range A.

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