Tuesday, December 19, 2017

I told a winemaker his wine has too much alcohol -- without tasting it

This post is a confession. I had an uncomfortable email exchange last weekend, so naturally I'm sharing it with the wider wine world. I know a number of winemakers will read this and they won't like it. I'm not sure I handled it correctly. Should I have said anything? You be the judge.

UPDATE: I had a pleasant phone conversation with the winemaker about this wine, and I have added his comments at the end of the post.

First, I got a press release from a California winery that is releasing a single-variety wine of a grape I hadn't heard of, Saint-Macaire, about which the encyclopedic book "Wine Grapes"*, which seems to know everything about every grape, says, "Little is known about the history of this obscure Bordeaux variety ... commonly grown in the Gironde in the nineteenth century ... Saint-Macaire has more or less disappeared from its Bordeaux homeland."

* (This is my favorite wine reference book and would make a great holiday gift.)

Saint-Macaire is so rare, the winery pointed out in its press release, that it does not appear in  California Department of Agriculture listings. This winery planted 600 vines in 2012 and now it has its first crop.

Enophile alert! Rare wine grape rescued from near-extinction! I love this kind of wine and this kind of story. But here's the catch:

Retail price: $68
Cases produced: 124
16.0% alcohol by volume
Aged: 19 months in barrel, new French oak

Damn. I was curious to taste Saint-Macaire, but when picked at that ripeness, how could I tell the difference between it and Merlot? Or Zinfandel, for that matter?



I understand that many people like very high-alcohol wines, and it's not my place to tell people to stop drinking them (there are other writers for that). The U.S. wine market is huge and diverse and there's a place for everything.

Nonetheless, this seems like a shame. The people who like 16% alcohol table wines -- are they the same people who want to try a nearly extinct grape variety? Maybe, but I think they're different crowds. It seems to me the sommeliers and enophiles who might be most interested in the variety will be, like me, turned off by the alcohol.

I get maybe 30 emails a day announcing that some winery has made some wine. Whooppee! If I'm not interested, which is usually (You made a Zinfandel? Again this year? WOW!), I don't respond. It's the PR person's job to send the emails, not necessarily to get any responses, but to tell her boss that she sent the emails. I can get frosty when some PR person "circles back around to see if I read my email about our new mango-flavored sake," but usually I just delete emails about products I'm not interested in.

But this time, this wine, for some reason, I sent back this brief reply to the email:

Interesting but I'm not sure why they would pick it so ripe (16% alcohol!) that you won't be able to taste the difference between this and Merlot.
Sorry, you probably didn't want that feedback.
 The PR person forwarded it to the winemaker, who responded:

Could be that 16 is perfect. Could be that less ripe is better. The journey has simply taken its first step. That being said, it wasn’t a blind one. Happy to go into more detail if there is interest.
What to do? I don't want to tell winemakers how to do their job. But I really feel like he's mixing up two markets here: the Saint-Macaire should be one of ours. Then again, at $68, maybe not: maybe the type of American who spends $68 for a California red wine that is not Pinot Noir is demographically inclined to want a super-ripe wine.

I sent this email back:

I'm sure you had very good reasons for picking when you did and I feel uncomfortable being in this conversation. I don't tell directors which scenes to cut or musicians to add a guitar part in the bridge.

Moreover, I'm sure you're more likely to get a good Advocate score with a riper, softer wine, and I know that's way more important than some blogger's opinion.

I just personally don't order or drink table wines at 16% alcohol. I have found wines in blind tastings that I liked to be in the high 15s, so I know it's possible to make a wine that tastes delicious at that alcohol level. And I know they can be very commercially successful. Everyone has their own preferences.

I wouldn't have started this conversation at all if it weren't a unique variety. Merlot at 16% alcohol, bully for you, sell the heck out of it and prosper. I don't need to love every wine. But I would like to know what Saint Macaire tastes like, and I don't think this wine will tell me. That's all.

I'm sorry to be arrogant; I know this message is.
I still feel uncomfortable, but I sent the email for a reason, the same impulse that led me to take this discussion public.

The next step normally would be to taste the wine and talk about it but to be honest, I'm not interested in tasting this wine. I don't have a hard cutoff for alcohol percentage in a table wine, but 16% is well above what I want to drink and what I want to recommend. If I taste it, and it's delicious -- super smooth, interesting, complex, my Saint-Macaire dream come true -- I still would never order a bottle of it, because I couldn't finish a glass. So should I recommend a wine like that, that I would not drink myself? Should I publicize it? (You might note the winery name is not listed here; that's why.)

There are a lot of issues here. What do you think? Would you be less interested in a rare grape variety at 16% alcohol? If it had lower alcohol, would you be inclined to spend $68 on it?

Most importantly, should I have kept my damn mouth shut (figure of speech: I don't type with my mouth open)? Or did I do the right thing in passing along this opinion without even tasting the wine?

UPDATE: Here are the comments from the winemaker, Jeff Hinchcliffe of Hanna Winery, about this wine. I am still not planning to taste it, but I am hoping to taste the 2017.

Jeff Hinchcliffe: "Saint-Macaire makes a high-acid, high-color, high tannin, big wine. Many years ago UC Berkeley recommended it only for hot regions because of its high acidity and deep color. We thought the acidity and resilient color might make it good option for climate change conditions.

Our style is an opulent, ripe style. We were looking for a grape that could make that style but also retain some of that freshness especially in a changing climate. This was the only grape that had these characteristics. The only other one close was Malbec. The idea is that this grape is uber-Malbec: intense color and high acidity and this really interesting phenolic composition.

One thing to bear in mind on this is that this is year two of picking this. Young vines tend to ripen quickly. They tend to accumulate sugar very quickly, while phenolic maturity lags.  This was picked on Sept. 10. We were trying to eak out as many days as possible post-veraison to ripen the tannins. It's kind of a monster. It's a big, big wine. It's bigger than Cab. We're not dealing with Merlot here. We're dealing with an entirely new critter. We all have to bear in mind, one clone, one small block, three years of experience. We need more people planting it, more locations, more winemakers playing with it.

The aromas are earthy. Early on it's like tapenade. Earthiness, some mushroom character, some chanterelle and sarsparilla notes. It's not a fruit bomb, that's for sure.

For the 2015 vintage, we blended it with Cab, Malbec and Merlot. It's only 77% Saint-Macaire.  In 2017 a 100% version may be possible. It's a wine you might be interested in tasting. It's 14.5 alcohol. It's 100 percent Saint-Macaire. It’s big. I can't overemphasize how different the mouthfeel is. Extended barrel aging is necessary to make it supple."

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41 comments:

Bob Rossi said...

Great post! I love to find, and try, rare grape varieties (I just read about a bunch of obscure Swiss varieties, but I doubt if any of them make it out of Switzerland), but: $68 is far too high; 16% is too high; and 19 months in new French oak is too much.
Now I'll have to go to my Wine Grapes book and read about the variety.

Stormy said...

Put your mouth where your fingers are and taste it, if they're offering. Be open, be honest, with them and with yourself. I think you owe it to yourself to follow this to the end, even though you're uncomfortable. That's how we grow!

David Ramey said...

Blake, the old trope of not being able to finish one glass of 16% alcohol doesn't stand up to math. The 2% variation in alcohol between a 16% and a 14% wine is a 12.5% difference. This means that a 6-ounce glass of 14% wine contains the same amount of alcohol as a 5.25-ounce glass of 16% alcohol wine. This is not a large enough difference--3/4 ounce--to tar the higher alcohol wine as spirit-like (in the sense of being high alcohol).

Now if you couldn't drink it because you don't like it, that's personal preference--but it's not a case of getting drunk from high alcohol.

Jim Caudill said...

Try before you fry....

Judy Parker said...

I think you did a good thing. It's worthwhile to share a comment like this. I once had a taste of 2013 pinot noir made from grapes from the Willamette Valley at 16.5 ABV and I had a frank conversation with the winemaker. He was discreet but I gathered that his particular clientele expected wines that hot, regardless of varietal. If a 16.5 ABV 2013 WV PN were not in front of me, I still could have flagged it as too high. His other wines - those with an equally high ABV but with a grape to support it - were more enjoyable.

John Logan said...

I think your observations are spot on, but you really can drink all you want at 14% alcohol, but at 16% you can't finish one glass?

That 2% difference is over the line?

I get that you may not enjoy it because you don't enjoy over ripe fruit, but really now.

José Vouillamoz said...

Dear Blake, thank you for the laudatory comment about Wine Grapes :)
While I would be equally reluctant to taste a new variety when it reaches up to 16%, I'm even more deterred by 19 months in French new oak.
Whenever I'm conducting a masterclass on rare grape varieties, I always ask to serve exclusively UNOAKED varietals.
Congratulations for your article and your work, and I think you did nothing wrong by contacting the producer, you just gave your opinion.
Best regards
Dr José Vouillamoz

Bearhunter said...

I'm with José on this: it's not the alcohol it's the oak that would put me off. You wouldn't taste anything but timber; you might as well be sucking a mantelpiece.

Greg Piatigorski said...

Hi Blake, interesting take on a couple of points. I am not sure how to read your "19 months in new French oak" take since most of higher end Napa and Bordeaux do spend 18 to 24 months in new French oak, sometimes 200% new. Even some of the higher end Pinots these days spend 18-20 months in barrel, and yes, sometimes all new. I am really baffled by your and others' take on the issue.

On the higher alcohol point, in addition to David Ramey's very accurate observation, I would also ask you to remind us all what is Reverse Osmosis and why it was and still is so important to Bordeaux (and Napa as well, to be honest). RO was first used in Bordeaux, no? LLC, anyone? Not that others in the vicinity shy away. Do you really think no one picks at rather very high Brix levels these days and somehow believe that a number printed on a label actually reflects the actual starting point? I applaud a winery for being honest in this case while at the same time mystified that a well known and grounded blogger such as yourself is taking a very narrow view of the issue and deliberately ignoring facts to suit your narrative.

Its just a number. I've had my share of "low alc" wines where the first thing you experience is, yes, alcohol, meaning lack of proper physiological maturity in grapes. Number is just one of the parameters that make up a (balanced) wine, it could be low and it could be high. But its just a number that doesn't really tell you much one way or another without one actually tasting and measuring if a wine has balance of all components.

Paul Franson said...

As it's so rare, it would have been nice to make at least some at a more typical level to compare with other Bordeaux varieites.

Guenoc used to grow all eight Bordeaux varieties when the late Orville Magoon owned the place, but don't know f they still do. Yes, also Gros Verlot, Carmenere, Malbec and the more popular ones).

Never got to try individual wines from any, however, except in a blend with all eight.

They also had some Syrah from mid 1800's.

Michael Donohue said...

Your prejudices got the better of you. You should have tried it.

Otto said...

I'm with Blake, Bob and Jose. Even without tasting one can see there's just way too much alcohol and oak here. And most likely I would've done exactly the same thing and commented back that just by its technical specifications the wine is simply unpalatable to my wussy European palate of a baby princess.

And to those who laugh at how 16% can be undrinkable: wines at 12% can be lovely; at 13% they can be lovely; at they 14% can be lovely, but the alcohol might start showing; at 14,5% the wines start to taste warm; at 15% the wines are pretty hot; at 15,5% the wines start to taste boozy; at 16% we're bordering on unpalatable. Of course there can be some exceptions to this rule, but this is a strong tendency I've found in wines I've tasted.

On Greg's point on how many modern wines see 100% new oak, even 200% new oak; I agree with him, that's very true. However, I also find the wines very often horrible, tasteless blockbusters that taste of chocolate milk shakes and caramel, not of anything remotely wine-related. There's nothing wrong in liking those wines, but I think the new oak criticism is very appropriate here, in this particular case - you don't get to taste anything of this rare variety, because all of its varietal characteristics (that might remain after the excessive hangtime) are decimated by that much new oak.

Greg Piatigorski said...

Otto,

I never said I like them with that much oak, I simply pointed out the fact that many do see a hefty and prolonged use of oak, not just here but in EU as well. I do NOT like them, in general, and find some to be well beyond my tolerance of oak.

As for alcohol, one can find, as you say, undrinkable wines even at 12% or 13% alcohol, mainly when the fruit does not have enough body to sustain that. Still have no idea what the number really means without actually tasting what's inside a bottle. One doesn't eat green bananas, for example, why should someone drink wine made from "green" uderripe fruit? This "making wine by numbers" just doesn't make sense.

This entire discussion brings up a good point to the fore, though. As a wine blogger, and this is IMHO, of course, one should try all that comes across his or her plate. I find same issue with food reviewers who refuse to taste a dish that contains (fill in an ingredient of your choice you generally do not like here) and still claiming to be food reviewer. OK, then, but maybe make your blog/magazine named a more appropriate one, say, "Low Alcohol Wine Blog". Or "Just Vegetables Blog", or whatever. Otherwise, if one claims to be a wine, or food, blogger/reviewer, then it should cover ALL, low and high alc, vegetables and meat, etc.

I am, generally, a Rhone drinker when it comes to France, and do not really venture to Bords, but will give any Bord a fair shake and will not refuse to taste any based on some "prejudice" of mine. Actually, when it comes to tasting wine I have no prejudices, I'll taste just to educate my palate. As any wine blogger should, IMHO.

So, no comment on picking super ripe grapes in Bordeaux (and Napa) and then using RO to dial back and reach some specific number? How about a wholesaler/distributor of a wine industry darling reluctantly admitting years ago on Parker's board that he and his client were and are deceiving EU and TTB here on taxes for a good long while with a 13.9% label when Vinquiry panels were reading consitently in the 15.6-15.8% range? Would Blake refuse to taste it based on the number had the label honestly disclosed actual content? The curious want to know.

Miquel said...

As others have said, it's the oak that's more worrisome thank anything else. This is a 2015 I assume given the age of the vines and the massive length in barrel? Logic would dictate that it's simply too young to try at this point no matter how good it might be one day.

The alcohol on the other hand doesn't really bother me. I would have to try the wine to see if that's a problem. As you know, I live in Priorat and there are 13.5% whites that taste boozy as shit and then 16.5% reds that taste perfectly integrated. The alcohol is really an issue of tasting it although in general, yes, I tend to stay away from wines that are high in ABV as I drink great quantities of wine because I adore it but sadly it adds up.

If the winemaker were really dedicated to this grape, at this early in the game, they'd be doing various microvinifications as there is no way to know what is the best approach and then go from there to see how they age.

What this really smacks of is a Cava that was released a couple of years ago which was aged under the sea. They wanted something like 300€ a bottle or whatever. Couldn't tell me the aging process, source of the grapes, or the blend ("proprietary") and of course I couldn't taste it. This seems largely like a marketing stunt and not something I could take seriously but mostly out of the aging approach which lacks curiosity.

I personally wouldn't have written back about this wine in question except to say that this is curious and could I taste it as I'll try most anything once.

Miquel
wineonsix.com

Michele L. said...

Oh for goodness sakes, try the wine already!!

Nova Cadamatre said...

Hi Blake,
As a winemaker, I feel you probably should have at least tasted the wine prior to passing judgement. I tend to agree with you that 16% probably suggests it was picked late however, these are also likely young vines which have a tendency to add sugar much faster than tannin maturity in Napa. This being a variety that really no one has worked with, it is likely that it will take some time to settle into a varietal style (especially if they are young vines). I think you do need to give the winemaker some respect that they knew what they were doing and weren't just trying to go for the jammy over ripe profile just because. That being said, after tasting it, if you still had felt the same way then you would have been fully justified to call it like it is.

My two cents...
Nova

W. Blake Gray said...

A number of people have mentioned the oak. 19 months in new French oak also seems long to me, which is why I listed the stat, copied directly from the press release.

However, I felt a lot less comfortable complaining to the winemaker about the oak than the alcohol. Barrels differ. Maybe these are light-toast barrels. Granted, this wine sounds like it may taste oaky, but that's the kind of variable that I simply couldn't know without tasting it. Moreover, I am not philosophically against wines aged in new oak. Dr. Vouillamoz is right -- it wouldn't be my choice for how to treat a rare variety. But just considering the wine as a wine, new oak is not a knockout factor for me. Not even close.

The alcohol percentage is different. I wrote this already, but it's the point of differentiation between my reaction to the alcohol and to the oak: I would not order a 16% alcohol table wine even if I knew it to be delicious. I can't say that about a wine aged 19 months in new oak.

A number of winemakers have picked up on my inadequate description, "I couldn't finish a glass" of 16% alcohol wine. That's true, but not because of intoxication, as I enjoy whiskey, brandy, etc. I have had a lot of experience at wine dinners, and at home after tasting, with having several glasses of wine open in front of me. Wines that are that high in alcohol, even if I enjoyed them while tasting, which is work, I inevitably do not finish when drinking with dinner. I think all critics who rate wines should try drinking their favorites with dinner after tasting them. Often it changes my opinion.

Greg Piatigorski said...

Light toast equates MORE oak flavor.

And back to the 19 months statement, do you also question Bordeaux for same reason? High end Rhone?

Adam Lee said...

We’ve been here before, when you were unable to identify the wine by the alcohol level. Perhaps we need to redo the Tasting. http://blog.wblakegray.com/2010/06/alcohol-challenge-me-vs-adam-lee.html?m=1

W. Blake Gray said...

There's another important point I should have mentioned. I was never going to pay $68 for this wine. So to taste it, I would have to request a sample. And I would have to do so knowing that I was likely to dislike the wine, and even if I did like it, to not write about it on principle. I don't like to request samples in such a circumstance: it's not fair to the winery.

JonAR said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
W. Blake Gray said...

Sorry, I have a policy of not allowing the marketing of products in the comments.

Anders Öhman said...

Maybe someone already pointed out that Saint-Macaire is one of the listed varieties for red Meritage.

Stephen Ballard said...

Grape varieties fall out of favor for a reason. Recall that Viognier "almost shriveled into extinction" - to quote Jancis Robinson - who noted that in 1985 there were just 80 acres planted in the entire world. Why was it nearly extinct? I can tell you from personal experience, having grown it for 10 years -- it is subject to "spontaneous bud abortion" which results in many fruitless canes. There are years when you may have little fruit, and you prune to have more canes than you would have on any other variety. I believe the French realized it was a losing proposition to try to grow it, hence the very small plantings until the New World gave it a try. Perhaps that's the case with Saint-Macaire -- something about it must make it less desirable to plant than other varieties. Rarity is intriguing, but suspect.

But the other factors -- too much oak, too much alcohol (ah, California) -- that's just too much. If offered a sip, sure, but I'd never buy it.

W. Blake Gray said...

Stephen: You make a good point -- most grape varieties fall out of favor for farming reasons, not reasons of wine flavor. On the plus side, this is why so many can be successfully resurrected. Most of the farming problems that make vintners want to give up on a grape when they have to sell jugs of wine for $5 aren't economic dealbreakers when they can sell a bottle of wine for $25, not to mention $68.

Peter said...

Also seems a bit strange that they managed to get 124 cases from 600 vines (young vines at that, probably the first crop). That is roughly 300 gallons of wine or .50 gallons per vine. These seem like incredibly high yields if you figure a high-density vineyard with 2,500 vines per acre would give you (at this rate) 1,250 gallons per acre. With normal, good juice yields of 160 gallons per ton this would equal nearly 8 tons per acre, possible but not probable from young vines, first crop, and certainly not worth $68 per bottle. Just saying...

Stanley Yucikas said...

It would appear that the only way out of this conundrum would be to simply taste the wine. For the sake of argument, if the winemaker/winery will not send you a sampler then buy a bottle, taste it, and then blog about it. The fact that it is being touted as the resurrection of an obscure grape, how it was aged, how much alcohol, etc, are only incidental factors that should not even be considered prior to tasting. I just hate it when I belly up to a tasting room counter and before I've even lifted a glass the person pouring has already told me how it's going to taste (sigh).

W. Blake Gray said...

Adam Lee: Thank you for the reminder. I had that tasting in mind when I wrote this post. In fact, I think about that tasting all the time.

But you gotta go back and read the last five paragraphs.

Jack Everitt said...

"The people who like 16% alcohol table wines -- are they the same people who want to try a nearly extinct grape variety? Maybe, but I think they're different crowds. It seems to me the sommeliers and enophiles who might be most interested in the variety will be, like me, turned off by the alcohol." - I wholeheartedly agree with this! I find with 16% alc. wines that the alcohol is just too in your face. I much prefer 12-13.5% alc. wines and I really avoid those above 14.6% now.

I'm someone who loves to try rare varieties. But the 16% just makes me think this is a clown wine, and who has time for such?

Unknown said...

Ah! The giggles provoked by prejudice. So many opinions without a sip amongst them. Alcohol! Oak! Yield!
I must say none are relevant, all are part of the Matrix That Is Wine.
I will admit to bias against over 14%, but I've made kick ass Riesling and Gewurtztraminer at over.
I'm not a fan of all new oak, but I have certainly found exceptions.
Yield is best evaluated as grams per meter, not tons per acre. It's not corn or alafalfa.
So, yes, you are wine bigot. Join the rest of the World.
Kudos for self revalation.
Paul Vandenberg
Paradisos del Sol

Pizza Steve said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pizza Steve said...

Great comments and thanks again for stimulating an interesting dialog. On topic of whether you should have sent the comments to the winemaker, I think you are fully justified. They engaged the world through their press release, your comments were potentially helpful.

I had a similar situation in another work area, where my negative feedback might yield improved performance, but risked some response from a thin skinned person. In my case I referenced a sports/coach analogy. Even an MVP should be open to feedback, especially if their swing or shot is off based on technically correctable issues.

That said, sometimes a poor technique can yield good results. I might give the wine a try, if offered the chance without too much effort on your part.

Always enjoy your blog. If the winery is willing to let me pick a few hundred pounds, I will volunteer to go up and pick/make an unoaked, lower alcohol sample you can try in a year or two. Feel free to offer my services (we retire this year and will have the time).

Bob Henry said...

A Bordeaux that is acclaimed as the greatest wine in the world [*] is the 1947 Cheval Blanc.

Described by those who have tasted it as Port-like. And we know Port has 20% alcohol.

In my experience, the highest naturally-occuring ABV wines from California were Mayacamas Late Harvest Zinfandels. Clocking in at 17% ABV, they were likewise acclaimed in their day.

https://wine-searcher1.freetls.fastly.net/images/labels/75/89/mayacamas-vineyards-late-harvest-zinfandel-napa-valley-usa-10567589.jpg

From Wines & Vines magazine
(January 2009):

“WINES THAT CHANGED THE INDUSTRY:
1960s era -- Handling extra ripeness 1968 Mayacamas Late-Harvest Zinfandel"

Link: http://www.winesandvines.com/template.cfm?section=features&content=61190

[*From Slate (posted February 13, 2008):

"The Greatest Wine on the Planet:
How the 1947 Cheval Blanc, a defective wine from an aberrant year, got so good."

Link: http://www.slate.com/articles/life/drink/2008/02/the_greatest_wine_on_the_planet.single.html

By Mike Steinberger
"Drink: Wine, Beer and Other Potent Potables" Column]

mike callahan said...

I wish people cared about pH and as much as they cared about ETOH. Especially the Pinot Noir crowd that champions whole cluster wines at 3.9 pH browning and peaking after a year in bottle.

pH meters are actually a much easier to use & calibrate ~if you wanted to start. Much cheaper than an alcolizer. Or do you use an ebulliometer for alcohols? ... The results of ebulliometers are about as accurate and arbitrary as people who assert opinions on alcohol percentages and balance.

W. Blake Gray said...

Mike: I tried a mini-campaign a couple years ago to get people to care about pH.

The big thing is that ABV is listed on the bottle. The TTB's overly generous leeway doesn't prevent the number from having some meaning, especially with 14% being a hard borderline. I wonder how that will be affected by the new tax law. I don't mind at all wines higher than 14% in alcohol not being penalized with higher taxes, but I liked the certainty that a wine labeled under 14% was definitely under 14%, plus I liked the smaller (but still too generous) 1% leeway in labeled ABV over 14%. I hope those things aren't going away.

What's Cooking at HANNA Winery said...


Greetings, Blake. The note below is from HANNA Wine-maker, Jeff Hinchliffe, (responsible for 2015 Reserve Saint Macaire, wine in question). I am posting on his behalf.

Dear Blake,

I am sorry you didn’t take me up on my offer to discuss the wine in more detail, or to taste it yourself. These options are still on the table. It would be a shame to miss out on a fun discussion about Saint Macaires’s history, the apparent ambivalence of early California researchers, and its short fall from grace. We could discuss the vine’s phenology, cluster morphology, insanely long tendrils, inelegant clusters, and berry size.

I could share notes about its puckering acidity, tiny pH and its paradigm shifting phenolics, as well as its pungent aromatics and teeth dyeing color. I would gladly compare ripeness, alcohol and oak use in the subsequent vintages now residing in cellar.

At the very least, wouldn’t it be nice to add some dimension to yet another discussion about alcohol and oak?

Sincerely,

Jeff Hinchliffe
Winemaker, HANNA Winery, 2014 Reserve Saint Macaire

"When it comes to wine, I tell people to throw away the vintage charts and invest in a corkscrew. The best way to learn about wine is the drinking"- Alexis Lichine

"Preconceived notions are the locks on the door to wisdom" -Merry Browne

W. Blake Gray said...

Jeff: You present me with a conundrum. Several, actually.

My reasons for not wanting to write about the wine, I have already elaborated. AND I have a policy of not allowing people to sell products in the comments, which I sometimes find myself having to enforce on winemakers (sorry, winemakers).

But on the other hand, unlike a lot of media sites I believe in giving the other side, not that it gets me any respect (sigh).

And there's this: I hope you understand why I didn't ask for a sample. It's not a cheap wine, you don't have a lot of it, and I'm predisposed to not like it. I didn't think it was fair to ask for a sample under those circumstances.

But I'd like to hear that other side.

So let's do this: forget about the Saint Macaire history and morphology for now. Why don't you "share notes about its puckering acidity, tiny pH and its paradigm shifting phenolics, as well as its pungent aromatics and teeth dyeing color. I would gladly compare ripeness, alcohol and oak use in the subsequent vintages now residing in cellar."

Thanks.

W. Blake Gray said...

I probably should have posted this earlier. Sometimes when I set out to mock a high-alcohol wine the truth gets in the way. You never know:

https://www.wine-searcher.com/m/2017/04/sex-love-and-the-1000-breakfast-wine

BradK said...

So many comments.

Did anyone mention the new tax law moved from a 14% cutoff to 16%?

Why is it that people that don't make wine have so many opinions on the right way to make a wine?





W. Blake Gray said...

Good question, Brad K.

I have one for you: why do so many people click on a blog post and assume that's the only article ever written by that author, or on that blog?

http://blog.wblakegray.com/2018/01/public-safety-alert-americans-could-get.html

BradK said...

Blake,
The new tax law is top of mind as we needed to decide what to do about our bottled wines still in bond. I did read your post. Maybe, alcohol Nazis and oak Nazis just want to rant and couldn't care less about the negative implications of the new tax law.

I do think $68 is probably ok for a low volume wine club only wine. In that case, reviews are probably unnecessary, but actual feedback might be appreciated.