At Veedercrest we recently released two “Back to the Future” wines, the 2007 Napa Valley Zinfandel being one, the other was our 2009 Napa Valley Merlot. These wines are lower in alcohol, 13.9% and 12.7% respectively. In the 1970’s we used to make wines in California that were lower in alcohol. Over the years alcohol has crept up. This was the result of several things: 1) a consumer desire to have wines “ready to drink” upon purchase, rather than having to age the wines; 2) the winemakers’ desire to be able to realize cash flow by earlier release of wines; 3) the “Robert Parker” halo effect (he preferred more fruit forward intense wines); 4) warmer climate of California where wines naturally achieve higher sugars then in the much cooler European growing regions, among other reasons. In any event we tend to pick grapes in California that have more sugars, less acid, and which produce wine with higher alcohols. These wines are easier to drink earlier but do not “live” as long (ie they go flat or get flabby when cellared for significant periods). These two styles or winemaking are very distinctive and produce wines of significantly different flavor profiles.
Daryl Corti of Corti Wine Merchants in Sacramento, one of the iconic merchants of long standing in his community, so prefers lower alcohol wines that he instructs his buyers not to have any wines in his store with an alcohol content higher than 14.5%. In his view wines are supposed to pair elegantly with foods, not overpower foods with alcohol and intense fruit tendencies. We believe that he is “right on”.
Wines that are lower in alcohol and higher in acid require longer aging to “settle down” and be drinkable. Wines become softer with age. We intentionally release our red wines later – here it is December 2013 and we have not yet bottled our reds from 2009. We prefer the plush softness of an aged wine. Very often the modern wine drinker is not familiar with this style. We encourage you to try older vintages. We call this style “back to the future” as we believe that winemakers are experimenting with going back to lower alcohol styles.