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Alcohol to high in wines?

Alcohol to high in wines?

 

Alcohol levels in just about everything are rising, and a lot of people aren’t happy about it. Nonetheless, winemakers would really rather you not know that they’re doing something about it. Or, at least, one particular something about it: dealcoholization, or “dealcing.” While there are alcohol-free or very low alcohol wines on the market, what I’m talking about is bringing super-hot 14-17% alcohol wines down to the more comfortable 11-14% range.

 

Why alcohol levels are rising is no mystery. Winemakers are working with riper grapes to satisfy contemporary tastes for the big, the luscious, and the fruit-forward. Wine growing regions are warming up so that grapes have the time and sunlight to accumulate sugars like never before. Better yeasts are able to handle both more sugar and more alcohol without giving up, so winemakers don’t have to add water to ensure that high-sugar musts will ferment.

What to do about all this heat is a different matter. You might argue that we shouldn’t do anything about it at all; higher ABVs are a natural consequence of riper fruit, riper fruit is good, and so there we are. But plenty of other people, including a lot of consumers, aren’t happy about seeing numbers in the 14-16% range on their bottles, and a substantial industry has emerged in an effort to make those people happier.

Reducing alcohol isn’t just about pleasing customers who want lower-alcohol wines, though that’s part of it. It’s also about taxes. Both in the United States and the EU, wines with more than 14% alcohol reported on the bottle (labels only have to be accurate by plus or minus 0.5%) accrue higher taxes than wines under that limit. For mega-wineries with lakes of wine to process, “dealcing” to slide below that threshold can save money. And then there’s the “balance” argument; some winemakers feel as though their wine tastes better with super-ripe flavors but less alcohol than that ripeness usually produces. The EU allows winemakers to reduce the alcohol content of their wines by up to two (ABV) percentage points either via the reverse osmosis or spinning cone approach. American winemakers are free to reduce as they please.
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Natural wine has much to learn...

Natural wine has much to learn from…

 

I can’t look a chicken in the eye anymore unless I ask it first if it’s free range. My family eats organic, right down to the kale. Yes, the natural food movement has changed the way we eat. We consider where our food came from, who grew or produced it, and how far it traveled to get to our plate.

Certainly — to throw some reality-check deionized spring water on the previous paragraph – the vast majority of American eaters are slugging down sugary drinks and sucking down deep-fried McSomething every day, but what was once the fringe domain of a few tofu freaks is now mainstream. You can buy stock in Whole Foods, which took in nearly $12 billion last year, and you can buy organic at Walmart and Costco.

Authors like Michael Pollan and Mark Bittman champion intelligent eating that will help us all live longer. I wonder, though, when those guys sit down to a meal with wine, do they drink organic? I’d like to think so. Laura Klein, publisher of Organic Authority, told me that people who eat organically would also be likely to drink organic, natural or sustainably-produced wine.

“It is a natural extension of their lifestyle,” she wrote me in an email. “Grapes can be one of the most heavily sprayed crops with pesticides, and those who want to limit their exposure to pesticides will probably want to choose wine made with grapes that are grown organically the way mother nature intended: without the use of chemical pesticides that damage the soil, environment and health of the workers that pick those grapes. In fact growers who use pesticides have to pay higher health insurance rates for their workers because of exposure.”

Although you can get organic wines in Whole Foods and Trader Joes, how can you find out more about them, and who are the champions for drinking the good (organic) stuff?
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Excuse me, waiter, but why is my caipirinha glowing?

Researchers in Brazil say they’ve found a faster way to age cachaça, the liquor used to make the country’s signature cocktail, the caipirinha: zap it with gamma radiation.

Cachaça, Brazil’s rum-like spirit, is often bottled as soon as it’s distilled but it can also be aged in barrels for three years or more, giving the spirit greater color, flavor and complexity.

Impatient scientists have discovered that a dose of gamma rays ionizes the cachaça, speeding up chemical reactions that take place naturally during the aging process from years to minutes.

This supercharged version of the sugarcane moonshine known as cachaça carries with it no radiation risk, said Valter Artur of the Nuclear Energy Center at the University of Sao Paolo.

 

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Low-alcohol-drinks-cut-bo-007

 

The International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) has adopted new definitions of low-alcohol and de-alcoholized wines.

The move by the OIV comes amid a rise in the popularity of low-alcohol wines, with producers such as Skinnygirl targeting female consumers in particular. Other winemakers are seeking to reduce the high alcohol content of their more potent wines, created by factors such as better vineyard management and the picking of grapes later (and riper). Some can have alcohol levels of up to 17 percent. Alcohol reduction can also improve the taste balance of particular wines.

Alcohol is reduced or removed using techniques such as spinning cones and reverse osmosis. Conetech, a California-based company which specializes in “alcohol adjustment,” says it treats six million gallons of wine annually from around 600 clients. It also has plants in Chile, Spain, France and South Africa, with Australia soon to follow.

The difficulty is that the rules governing the use of alcohol-reduction technology vary worldwide.

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