Thursday, September 23, 2021

Dan Berger: Dealing with Alcohol

 Look at the label on any bottle of wine, and you'll see how much alcohol it has. Except for some very rare examples, the law requires it.

I prefer wines with 13% or so. They appear to me to be better balanced. They work better with food and don't intoxicate as fast. But most red wines these days are about 14.5% or more. Occasionally a lot more.

One thing we know is that a higher level of alcohol in wine has a number of drawbacks, one of which is that the alcohol in a wine can cover up fruit flavors. 

Smell the otherwise "neutral" spirit vodka. It has an aroma -- of alcohol! Proof that alcohol is volatile came from food chemist Harold McGee. In a New York Times article published in 2010, he wrote, "It's no secret that the alcohol in drinks can get in the way of our enjoying their flavors. 

"When alcohol makes up more than 10% to 12% of a liquid's volume," the article added, "we begin to notice its irritating, pungent effects in the mouth and in the nose."

Later McGee added: "The more alcoholic a drink is, the more it cloisters its aroma molecules, and the less aroma it releases into the air. Add water and there's less alcohol to irritate and burn, and more aroma release."

He pointed out that this phenomenon works especially well with dark coffees. A few drops of water actually makes the coffee tastes a lot better!

Adding a little water, although it may help uncover some aromas in wine, can dilute flavors, right? Not necessarily.

One strategy that I employ is adding a small ice cube to a five-ounce glass of wine. That dilutes some of the alcohol and also has the effect of "opening up" the aroma.

Besides, most red wines are served a little bit too warm for me. The cooling effect that ice has actually benefits us by creating better balance.

In the last decade, it has become clear that a number of winemakers have discovered that lower alcohols can make for more approachable red wines. 

One strategy that some are employing is harvesting grapes slightly earlier than in the past, aiming to pick fruit with barely enough maturity at lower grape sugars to make for a silkier, lower-alcohol red wine.

This can make wines that are a little less "obvious" when young. It means they may not get as high of a score from those who use points to rate wine. But in most cases, the wines benefit. As do we.

Where can you find these wines? The best news is that wines with less than 14% alcohol usually sell for a lot less money than the 15% or even higher red wines. Those high-alcohol, exalted wines can sell for four or five times as much money, but they're not very interesting (to me) because the alcohols cover up the fruit.

As much as I truly love some wines of intensity, I much prefer to drink a glass of red without the fear that I'm going to get extremely sleepy, a headache or a maxxed-out credit card.

Wine of the Week: 2020 Concha y Toro Merlot, Casillero del Diablo, Rapel Valley ($10): This simple, every day Chilean table wine has only 13.5% alcohol; displays attractive olive, herbal and cherry fruit notes; has a dry entry and mid palate; and is actually tastier when served slightly chilled. Often seen around $8 per bottle.

To find out more about Dan Berger and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at



Anonymous said...

Mississippi alcohol sales reportedly outpaced nation during pandemic

He is a Wine Snob said...

I really doubt that he palate can tell the difference between 13.5% and 14.5%.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoy these informative articles on different wines.

Anonymous said...

I don’t drink wine to enjoy the intricate flavor nuances. I drink it for the buzz, the higher the proof the better.

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS.

Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS