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My View: Drinkers do not want alcoholic jam

Published:  18 January, 2007

If you are worried about higher alcohol content says Peter Barry "don't drink the whole bottle". He seems to me to be missing the point.

The fruit often tastes tired, the palate is fatigued and the bottle finished with difficulty. Discerning wine drinkers do not want alcoholic jam, and to pay for a bottle in a restaurant and only drink half of it. A good wine should at least tempt a second one. My customers frequently express concern at the rise in alcohol levels and ask for the reason. Rather than point helplessly in the direction of global warming, I usually blame more direct human intervention.

Control-freak winemakers have become too efficient at ripening grapes and converting sugar into alcohol. Yeasts on steroids have taken over from the naturally competing, and hence less efficient wild ones.

Thirty years ago most winemakers would have been delighted with 12.5% of natural alcohol. But the underlying cause of the problem lies in the importance attached to wine competitions. Winemakers are encouraged to make beauty contest winners at the expense of more refined expressions of the grape.

Perhaps producers need to focus on balance rather than efficiency.

Mark Savage is the owner and managing director of Savage Selection wine merchants