Let’s talk about alcohol

Alcohol: It’s both a blessing and a curse.

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A little is harmless for most people, but excessive consumption doesn’t do anyone any good.

Wine, like other so-called adult beverages, contains alcohol, and the alcohol is an essential ingredient. There’s no argument about this, and if you don’t think the alcoholic component is important, go try a dealcoholized wine and get back to me.

Most wine-loving adults understand that the presence of alcohol in our favorite beverage as a part of the wine experience. Physicians call beverage alcohol a “mild depressant” based on its effect on the body. Some unknown philosopher once described beverage alcohol as a “social lubricant.”

According to a post on social drinking at DrugRehab.com, “For many, it can ease stress and increase pleasure. … Many people tend to feel relaxed when drinking socially. This is because alcohol affects brain function, changing moods and behaviors. It binds to receptors in the brain that boost dopamine levels, which activate pleasure.”

This chart from the U.S. National Institutes of Health shows the varying sizes of liquor servings depending on alcohol content.

This chart from the U.S. National Institutes of Health shows the varying sizes of liquor servings depending on alcohol content.

In short, moderate alcohol consumption adds to the pleasure of wine and other alcoholic beverages for most people. Moreover, it appears to be a necessary element in the aroma, flavor and, perhaps most important, textural qualities that we look for in fine wine. This is one reason why those non-alcoholic wines I mentioned don’t satisfy most wine lovers: Taking the alcohol out of wine doesn’t remove only the “buzz.” It yields a light, watery fluid that doesn’t much resemble real wine.

Hardly anyone will dispute the truth that consuming too much alcohol is bad. Drunks cause accidents and kill people; chronic alcoholism may destroy both the body and the family. These are not matters to trifle with, and there’s a good reason why most societies limit the sale of alcohol to adults who are presumably capable of making wise decisions.

As we as wine lovers seek to balance pleasure and excess, it’s helpful to remember that the world of wines offers a surprising range of alcoholic content. Most table wines in the U.S. range between 11 and 15 percent alcohol, although those at the top of that range fall into some quirky labeling issues with regulators. But some wines are as light as 5 percent alcohol or less (like the sweet, fruity Moscato d’Asti from Italy, which technically can’t be labeled as “wine” in the U.S.); and some light, sweet German wines, like the refreshing Mosel Riesling in today’s tasting reports below) may reach only 8 to 10 percent.

At the high end of the wine scale, some of the biggest New World Zinfandels and other big red wines ferment out naturally at 15 percent or above, and powerful brandy-fortified wines like Port and some Sherries can reach 18 to 22 percent. Among other alcoholic beverages, most beers range from about 3 to 7 percent alcohol, while liquor rises into heady ranges up to 50 percent alcohol or more. (This, by the way, is why beer is often served in pint glasses or big mugs, while liquor is usually measured out by the ounce.)

At the end of the day, recognizing that blessing-and-a-curse thing, it’s not a bad idea to be aware of the alcohol content of the drink we are about to consume. Sipping a powerful nectar can be a blissful experience, but it makes sense to check the details on the label before we pour.



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Cellar Clearance Blowout

Cellar Clearance BlowoutThe California Wine Club is making room for new wines. Use promo code BLOWOUT to take an EXTRA 20% off already discounted selected wines, with $1 shipping. Stock up and save with this big sale.
Click to see the wines.
Cellar Clearance Blowout Sale ends June 14, 2019. Some restrictions may apply.
Click to see the offer.

About The California Wine Club:
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Today’s Tasting Report

Loosen Bros. 2017 “Dr. L” Mosel Riesling Qualitätswein ($12.99)

Loosen Bros Mosel

At just 8.5% alcohol, this Mosel Riesling falls near the lower end of the alcoholic spectrum for wine. Very pale, clear gold in color, its light carbonation shows as a quiet pop when the screw cap is cracked and as tiny bubbles that line the glass when the wine is poured. Ripe aromas of peaches and melon fill the nose, and carry over on the palate in a juicy, gently sweet fruit flavor. Brisk, cleansing acidity becomes more apparent on the mid-palate, with subtle stone and slate minerality hovering around the edges in a long finish. It may not be a great Mosel at this entry level, but it’s a clean, well-made low-end Mosel and a good value. U.S. importer: Loosen Bros. USA Ltd., Salem, Oregon. (June 6, 2019)

FOOD MATCH: Riesling is one of the world’s most versatile white wines for food matching, and should work with just about any white-wine pairing. Rich seafood dishes would serve it particularly well, and it should also be a natural with pork or ham. Its fruity sweetness should also sing with spicy Thai and Vietnamese dishes.

WHEN TO DRINK: It’s not designed for long-term cellaring, but there’s no rush to drink it up. Riesling can take age surprisingly well, particularly with this bottle’s sturdy screw cap.

My local price is a bit above Wine-Searcher.com’s $11 average retail, and it’s worth noting that some U.S. vendors offer it as low as $9. Still, it’s a fine Mosel, and I’d buy it again.

Loosen Bros. website offers this overview of its “Dr. L” wines, with links to fact sheets on the regular, dry, and sparkling offerings.

Locate vendors and check prices for Loosen Bros. “Dr. L” Mosel Riesling on Wine-Searcher.com.

Read more about the Mosel and find links to more than 500 good Mosel wines and vendors at this Wine-Searcher.com link.


Domaine du Haut Bourg 2015 Muscadet Côtes de Grandlieu sur Lie ($11.99)

Domaine du Haut Bourg

Bright, transparent straw color with a distinct brassy-green hue, with a scattering of bubbles on the glass. Fresh and inviting honeydew melon scent leads into a bright flavor profile of juicy, slightly sweet white fruit framed by mouth-watering acidity and a prickly petillance on the tongue, with modest 12% acidity. Subtle mineral flavors, chalk and granite, show off the complexity that comes with sur lie vinification and Muscadet terroir U.S. importer: Vanguard Wines, Columbus, Ohio. (May 17, 2019)

FOOD MATCH: A natural with seafood or delicate fish, it would also go well with summer dinner salads.

WHEN TO DRINK: It’s best drunk up while it’s fresh. This 2015 is still showing well, but I wouldn’t advise cellaring it.

It’s a fair buy in the neighborhood of Wine-Searcher.com’s $13 average retail.

This page from Polaner Selections, another importer, offers a good overview of Hervé et Nicolas Choblet’s Domaine du Haut Bourg, with links to details on several of their vintages.

Compare prices and locate vendors for Domaine du Haut Bourg 2015 Muscadet Côtes de Grandlieu sur Lie on Wine-Searcher.com.

Search for hundreds more Muscadet wines and locate vendors at this link on Wine-Searcher.com.


More affordable wines

Want tips to still more good, inexpensive wines? Here are Wine-Searcher links to vendors and prices for a bunch more wines for $10 or less that I’ve told you about during the past year or two. Please tell us about your favorites!

  • Laroque 2016 Cité de Carcassonne Cabernet Franc ($9.99)
  • Domaine de Pouy 2016 Côtes de Gascogne ($7.99)
  • Alamos 2015 Salta Torrontés ($9.99)
  • Alamos 2015 Mendoza Malbec ($9.99)
  • Caposaldo 2014 Chianti ($8.99)
  • d’Arenberg 2012 McLaren Vale “The Stump Jump” ($9.99)
  • Oveja Negra 2014 Maule Valley Cabernet Franc – Carmenere Reserva ($9.99)
  • Côté Mas 2016 “Rouge Intense” Sud de France Pays d’Oc ($12.99/1 liter)

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