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Monday Manifestos
Warning: Alcohol Can Spoil Your Day

But only if it is over 14%.

By Charles Olken

I have a friend named Jack. I call him Jack to protect the innocent because his name is not Jack, and it would be silly to call him Jon Bonne or Dan Berger. Jack works in a winery tasting room, and he used to like his job. Lately however, he tells me that large numbers of people come into his tasting room and the first thing they ask is, “Which of your wines is under 14% alcohol?”

My friend Jack is an honest man; he always tells the truth. “Well, folks, this is a Zinfandel house, and we don’t have any wines under 14% except for the Rosé and the late harvest Viognier”. As often as not, what follows is a wrinkling of noses, a furrowing of brows and a hasty retreat towards the door. Jack asked me to explain this strange business to him, and all I could say is that the world is panicking. Someone is spreading the rumor that one cannot get drunk on wine at 12.5% alcohol but will get pie-eyed, potted and pissed (to use the colorful British argot) if you drink wine at 14% alcohol.

You, dear readers, know better. You know I am not talking about you. You can do the math. You recognize fiction when you see it. You would not fall for the irrational argument, “I can drink four or five glasses of 12.5% alcohol wine and not get a buzz, but more than one glass of 14% alcohol wine and I am likely to fall asleep face down in my spaghetti and meatballs”.

That’s how it is here at Connoisseurs’ Guide. You and we are all rocket scientists and we can count. Apparently, those other folks cannot. So, I am going to help them.

Hey, you out there. Don’t panic. My friend Jack will be out of a job and you will miss out on a lot of good wine. So, let’s say that you like to drink half a bottle of wine per night. Some say that is a bit much, but it’s a nice round number, half a bottle, so let’s say that is what you drink. And let’s specify that half a bottle is 12.8 ounces of wine. It’s actually 375 ml, but I’m old and a half bottle to me is still 12.8 ounces.

Besides, it proves my point to use that number. If the wine you drink is 12.8% alcohol and you drink half a bottle of it, you can drink almost the same amount of 14% alcohol. Oh, sure, maybe you have to drink an ounce less, but let’s face it, you can cut down a bit in order to drink Zin with your meatballs and red-sauce. It just seems so wrong to be drinking Albarinho or Riesling or Rosé with dishes like that.

I worry that alcohol will spoil your day. Not excess alcohol. We don’t do that here. We know the numbers and we know when to stop. But rather, too little alcohol, and too little of the character that goes with your burgers or ribs or Veal Oscar. That is the real problem. There is nothing wrong with Riesling or Unoaked Chardonnay or Rosé. Riesling is probably my favorite grape in the world. But not with my burgers or ribs. Who eats Veal Oscar these days?


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% alcohol in wine
by Doug
Posted on:7/11/2011 9:32:55 PM

I don't think it's about how much a person can drink (regardless of whether or not they can do the math).  Alcohol content has simply become the latest fad that leads people to discriminate based on stereotypes without having to actually know anything about wine.  I look forward to the day when the fad is "balance," but I think it's gonna be a while.

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