February 2014 Wine of the Month Club Newsletter - page 20

MEMBERS
Q
A.
Interesting question. Before I answer the first part, I’ll
have to give you a brief scenario on fermentation.
Fermentation takes place when the natural, or added,
yeast cells convert the sugar in the grape to basically
half carbon dioxide and half alcohol. Most yeast cells
can’t survive in an alcohol environment much above
16%, although some hearty guys can make it up to
17% and even 18%. So, to answer the question, 18%
is about the highest possible alcohol level a wine can
achieve naturally. Now, ports and sherries are higher
than that but they are fortified. Natural spirits are
added to these wines to boost the alcohol levels.
This is done primarily to preserve the sugar in the
wine. Are wines with more alcohol better? Well,
that’s a matter of opinion. Traditionally, most high
alcohol wines, say over 14.5%, don’t age very well.
As the flavors subside, only alcohol is left and it can
give a slight bitterness to the wine. Many people
like young, big alcohol wines because they are
very strong and go well with imposing dishes.
Then again, some higher alcohol wines do age
better. In wine, as in most things in life, there are
no absolutes.
F O R M E M B E R S O N L Y
F O R M E M B E R S O N L Y
“What is the greatest percentage of alcohol in any
wine and is more alcohol better?”
~ J.L., AKRON, OH
Q&A
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