If Johnny Depp were a wine, he’d likely have a high alcohol content. There’s nothing subtle about him.
The golden statue goes to the actor who gave the strongest performance, but we all know that he or she doesn’t carry the movie alone. It’s why there also are more golden statues for the best supporting cast. Such is the case with wine, as well.
Here, the grape is obviously the star. We know wines by the type of grape used. But, there’s always a strong supporting cast, and the performance by alcohol will always make a difference. Here’s what you should know about how alcohol content will change what you taste in a wine.
Getting to know the cast
We’ve already established that the grape—or blend of grapes—is the star of the show, but wine assumes its flavor from other sources, too. Many of them directly impact the character of the grape. Weather, water, and sunlight will affect the sugar content of the grape. It’s why Chardonnay grapes grown in California taste different from the same grape grown in France.
Another considerable contributor is yeast. In fact, it’s likely going to be a more important factor than what’s been mentioned so far. Yeast is introduced to the wine to convert the grape’s natural sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide. The wine will remain sweeter if the yeast dies before it consumes all the sugars. The longer the yeast remains active, the more sugars are consumed, and the drier the wine becomes. This also will increase the alcohol content—remember that alcohol is the byproduct of yeast’s consumption of sugar.
Blame it on the sugar?
The amount of sugar available from the grape can determine the alcohol content. The sugars increase when grapes can fully mature—or ripen—with the assistance of optimal conditions. It shouldn’t be a surprise, then, that wines from California tend to have higher alcohol content than those from cooler climes.
South America, Australia, Spain, and California wine producers have experienced increasing seasonal temperatures. This has brought about an increase in the sugar levels of grapes, which in turn produces wine with a higher alcohol level.
To put this in perspective, the pinot noirs from Oregon have lower alcohol levels than their California pinot cousins because of the cooler climate. German Rieslings tend to have very low alcohol levels because the grapes struggle to ripen in this far northern location.
It has no taste, yet changes what you taste
Which brings us to alcohol. Experts tell us that alcohol doesn’t trigger receptors on our tongue, so technically, it has no taste. You’d think that logically, this means alcohol can’t affect the taste of wine.
By itself, alcohol is an ineffective contributor. It’s what alcohol does when it interacts with the star of the show that gives alcohol the ability to exert amazing control. And it’s not necessarily through our taste buds, either.
Enter the nose
Alcohol quickly evaporates when exposed to air. It’s the evaporating alcohol in your glass of wine that carries the aroma of wine to your senses. You need your nose to taste. If you haven’t already tried it, pinch your nose, and take a sip of wine. You’ll taste practically nothing at all.
Ah, so the higher the alcohol content, the greater the range of the grape’s personality you should taste, right? Well, not really. If the yeast consumes all or a high percentage of the sugars before it dies, the higher alcohol content can stifle a wine’s “bouquet.” It’s a fancy way of saying that the fruity aromas of the grape are diminished. And that will certainly alter the taste.
To some extent, the alcohol content will also affect a wine’s viscosity—which is the gatekeeper for the balance between acidity and sweetness.
Make it sweet
You’ve got to give the customer what they want, and they’re telling winemakers they want sweeter, bolder tastes. So, winemakers are allowing their grapes to stay on the vine and ripen longer than in the past.
The impressive performance requires a bigger contribution from the supporting cast. Generally, the bolder and sweeter the taste, the higher the alcohol content. The levels aren’t massive swings, however. Winemakers tend to agree that the ideal alcohol content for wine averages about 13.6%. California Cabernet sauvignon grapes will generate an alcohol content between 12.5% and 15%. A Riesling, on the other hand, can generate an alcohol content as low as 7%.
And this means…?
Is there a rule of thumb you can apply to alcohol content and the way it will affect the way wine tastes? The higher the alcohol level, the bolder the flavor.
Thus … if Johnny Depp were a wine, he’d likely have a high alcohol content. There’s nothing subtle about him.
Learn about the many options available
Whether they’re wine-drinking newbies or consider themselves oenophiles, there’s one thing all wine drinkers have in common: they have to get the wine out of the bottle. Everybody knows this is what corkscrews are for, but with so many choices to pick from, is one type better than the rest? Here are the basic styles available:
Twist and pull
They don’t come any more basic than this kind of corkscrew. While inexpensive, they require a certain amount of strength to get the cork out, which can make them a little difficult to use.
The butterfly corkscrew is probably the most common one available, and odds are good that you have one in your home right now. They are mostly easy to use, but not all of them are the same, so it’s important to find a good one – all-metal is obviously more durable than many which have plastic components.
Bunny ears corkscrews are also easy to use, but they’re not cheap. They are also somewhat sizable, so don’t expect them to fit nicely in an average drawer like the ones above.
Source: Wine Folly
Speaking of a big corkscrew, a table top variety is downright huge in comparison to the others on this list. Used in restaurants, this isn’t necessarily a wine opener that an individual needs to have. But if you’re a serious wine drinker – and you want to add an interesting piece to your home décor – this may be a good option.
Source: Wine Folly
If you just have difficulty with regular corkscrews, an electric version might be the perfect one to go with. Very easy to use, and they also generally aren’t too expensive.
Though more of a cork puller than a corkscrew, the two-pronged variety is meant for older bottles with natural cork. It is designed to remove the cork without damaging it.
This is another wine opener that doesn’t actually use a corkscrew, but it will get the job done. It utilizes a needle and air pressure to get the cork out.
Portable and easy to use, the waiter’s friend corkscrew is a great choice. There are many different types available and prices can vary significantly, but even the less expensive ones are good. They do take some skill to operate, but their portability and versatility drive their popularity among food service professionals.
Your own fingers
Unless you have superhuman abilities, you probably won’t be able to yank a cork out of a bottle without some sort of instrument. You can however, twist off a screw cap. Sometimes the best wine doesn’t require any sort of corkscrew.
When thinking about corkscrews, there’s really only one thing to determine: Will it get the cork out so you can drink? If the answer is yes, it probably doesn’t matter how basic or extravagant it is. The important thing is finding a wine worth pulling a cork for. This is where Orange Coast Winery comes in. We make wines that rival some of the best in the world. And when you come see us, we’ll take care of the corks for you!
Debunking common myths about sulfites in wine
Sulfites are the “bad guys” of the wine world, getting the blame for a number of ailments, including headaches. There are even warning labels on bottles of wine that “contain sulfites.” Outside of those who work in the wine industry, either as winemakers or experts, not much is known about sulfites. So, we thought it would be a good idea to dispel some of the myths surrounding them.
What are sulfites and are they really harmful?
Let’s start with defining sulfites. According to Scientific American, “Sulfur dioxide (or SO2) is a chemical compound made up of sulfur and oxygen. It occurs naturally but can also be produced in a laboratory. It’s used to preserve foods and beverages, which it does by acting as an antioxidant and antimicrobial.”
Sulfites have been used for centuries in the winemaking process, acting as a preservative to maintain its freshness. Ancient Romans used sulfites to keep wine from turning into vinegar.
In most cases, sulfites are not harmful unless you have a health condition such as asthma. Other people are “sulfite-sensitive” as their bodies lack a certain enzyme that allows them to break down sulfites. However, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), less than 1% of the U.S. population is sulfite-sensitive.
The amount of sulfite in a bottle of wine is highly regulated. In the US, a bottle that contains more 10 parts per million (ppm) of sulfur dioxide must carry a warning label. There are also limits on the total amount of sulfite that can be present in a bottle. In Europe, the limit is 210 ppm, while in the US, the limit is 350 ppm.
Debunking common myths about wine and sulfites
Myth #1: Sulfites cause headaches
This may be the most common myth associated with sulfites. While it is true that drinking wine can trigger headaches in some people, there is no evidence that sulfites are the cause. According to TheKichn.com, “There are many other compounds in wine such as histamines and tannins that are more likely connected to the headache effect (not to mention alcohol!).”
Myth #2: Red wine causes more headaches due to elevated sulfite levels
If sulfites are the alleged cause of headaches, red wine gets the most blame. Many believe that red wine contains more sulfites, however the opposite is true. That’s because red wines contain tannins, which are polyphenols found in the skin, seeds, and stems of grapes. Tannins act as an antioxidant and preservative in red wine. This translates to less sulfur dioxide being needed during the winemaking process rather than more. In fact, European regulations allow up to 210 ppm of sulfites in white wine, but red wine is limited to 160 ppm.
Myth #3: Wine contains more sulfites than other food/drink and should be avoided
Again … no. Other foods are known to contain more sulfites, including soda, candy, prepared soups, frozen juices, processed meats, potato chips, French fries, and dried fruit.
In fact, dried fruit can contain up to 1,000 ppm, while wine generally has around 10 ppm. If you eat these types of food and don’t get headaches, you probably don’t have an allergic reaction to sulfites.
Myth #4: Sulfites are an “unnatural” substance
Many critics of sulfur dioxide object to it because they believe it is an unnatural addition. However, according to TheKitchn.com “Sulfites are also a natural by-product of the yeast metabolism during fermentation. So even if you do not add any additional SO2, your wine will still contain sulfites.”
Actually, the proportion of sulfites in wine has been reduced due to a better understanding of how sulfur dioxide breaks down, new winemaking practices, and careful selection of healthy grapes.
Myth #5: Organic wines are sulfite free
Just because wine is labeled “organic” doesn’t mean it contains no sulfites: “In order to be certified organic, a wine must not contain added sulfites. However, sulfites are produced naturally during the fermentation process…Organic wine may contain between 10-40 ppm sulfites.”
Also, be careful when reading wine labels. Some use organic grapes, which can have as much as 100 ppm sulfites. Organic grapes and organic wine are not the same thing.
What if you truly have a reaction to sulfites?
It is true that certain people cannot consume food/drink with sulfites. Thankfully, there are a number of new wines on the market that are “sulfite free.” Look for these in stores if you want to enjoy wine again.
Millennials and women are the new wave in wine drinkers
Anyone connected with the wine industry can rest assured that wine is not going anywhere. In fact, sales have risen in the last few years, to the tune of $32 billion spent annually.
A study published by the Wine Market Council, a non-profit association of grape producers, importers, wholesalers, retailers and other wine-related businesses, recently looked at wine drinking habits. The findings make it clear that wine is not only still popular, but gaining strength. The study revealed a couple of interesting new trends …
There are basically two words to remember when it comes to wine drinking trends: Millennials and Women.
Trend #1: Millennials and wine
First, look at the numbers regarding wine consumption by generation:
Millennials (age 21 – 38) = 42%
Baby Boomers (age 51 – 69) = 30%
Gen-X (39 – 50) = 20%
Silent Generation (70+) = 8%
Millennials now drink more wine than any other generation, and look at this:
Part of the growth has to do with the fact that the youngest Millennials are now finally over the legal drinking age of 21. That means the entire generation is free to indulge when they want.
It’s not just volume when it comes to Millennial wine habits
Millennial drinking habits and trends are different from other groups as well. Millennials have more eclectic and varied tastes than any other generation before, eschewing bottles from traditional wine-producing regions like California. “At least 30% of high-frequency, wine-drinking millennials said they had bought wine from domestic wineries like Washington and Oregon, and overseas countries like Chile, Argentina, Germany, Portugal, Spain, and South Africa over the last three months.”
Millennials also seem to have more expensive taste, as 17% have paid over $20 for a bottle of wine.
Trend #2: Women like wine … a lot
Take a look at your Facebook or Instagram feed and notice of all the memes having to do with wine. You might also notice that many of them are posted or shared by women. That’s because women drink more wine than men, often by a wide margin.
If you want to drill down further, younger millennial women are the top trend in wine consumption. In fact, two-thirds of high-frequency wine drinkers under age 30 are women, according to a 2015 study.
The buying habits of women seem to be driven by a few interesting trends as well:
Based on the new findings, it’s clear that wine is here to stay and that millennials – especially millennial women – are the driving force in its rising popularity.
Regardless of trends, Orange Coast Winery sees wine lovers in every generation, gender, and just about every other demographic. Simply put, the love of a great wine is universal. To find the perfect wine for your next dinner party or event, visit Orange Coast Winery (online or in-person) and review our selection of fine wines for every price range and palate.