The higher the alcohol level, the higher the quality of the wine? It's a common belief, which somehow is understandable.
More alcohol in wine means more body, so it will give people a "fuller" impression, with a bolder and richer texture.
In fact, it has no relationship whatsoever with the quality of the wine. Let's bust the myth.
What affects ABV
During the alcoholic fermentation, yeast convert the sugars in ripe grapes into ethanol (alcohol), carbon dioxide and heat.
Therefore, alcohol level in wine is directly correlated with the amount of sugar that's developed in the grapes at harvest time: the higher the sugar, the higher the alcohol.
Climate has a considerable effect on the sugar content of grapes and thus directly affects the alcohol content in wine.
Hotter climates expose the grapes to more sunshine, encouraging faster sugar development.
If the weather is good, growers can leave the grapes on the vine until the peak of ripeness. This can help increasing the sugar content, which will also translate into more alcohol.
If you look at Château Margaux or Lafite in Bordeaux left bank in the 1990s, the alcohol level of their wines was 12.5%.
However, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the ABV of wines produced in Bordeaux, Tuscany and other "moderate climate" regions, increased to 13, 13.5 and even 14+ in more recent years.
The reason for the increase is not the improvement of wine quality, but the impact of global warming.
What determines the wine quality
Then how to really assess the quality of wine? At Hedonia, in our wine courses, we follow the WSET approach to tasting, also known as the acronym "BLIC".
B – Balance
All the different structural elements such as sweetness, fruitiness, alcohol, acidity and tannin should complement each other and no single element should take over in an unpleasant way.
L – Length
The length of a wine, sometimes also described as the finish, is measured by how long the taste remains in your mouth. In general, the longer the taste of fruit lasts on your palate, the better the wine.
I – Intensity
When the aromas of the wine are powerful, easy to identify and describe, then we can say that the wine has high intensity. On the palate it can also translate into "concentration of flavour", and is a sign of quality.
C – Complexity
Complexity refers to how many different layers of aromas and flavours that can be found in a wine.
Higher quality wines usually offer a more complex "bouquet", combining fruity, floral, mineral, earthy aromas, and more.
Apart from this theoretical approach, don't forget that tasting wine is all down to personal preference – regardless of ABV or quality, if you like it, then go for it!
Founded in 2018 by Matthieu Ventelon, Hedonia is the first institution in China combining professional Wine and Etiquette expertise in the same training offer.
Find more information on our website : http://en.hedonia.cn