Vol. 2 No. 29 Ignore my comments on alcohol removed wine!

Friends, I have to put this out, truly the last edition for 2016. The FRE wine I mentioned in the last missive is horrible. I spent the time since writing about it to research it and finally tried it last night! It is going back to the store!

Here is how alcohol removed wine is made: first, it starts out just like regular wine but then they use a tower cone, developed by the Aussie’s to remove the alcohol. The tower is about 20 feet high and the wine enters at the top and percolates down. As it moves it has a centrifuge effect so that the alcohol is extracted. This I thought was brilliant. Wouldn’t you think that if it started as 12% alcohol, they would merely have 88% as an end product. No, and here is where the Trinchero’s come in. Ever hear of White Zinfandel, an oxymoron as zin is a red grape with red juice? But Sutter Home found a way to pull the skins immediately and end up with a blush wine…most certainly not white (Beringer produced one called Eye of the Swan).

However, not satisfied with 88% of the wine, rather than add more alcohol removed wine they simply add grape juice instead…yes, unfermented grape juice. The result is neither fish nor fowl but something that tasted awful (foul?) to me. I tried a Red Blend, Merlot, and the Brut I mentioned. Frankly, they are not even worth the $5.50, so all are going back. It was sweet and velvety from the sugar (unfermented) in the finished (?) product, and definitely not potable wine. Well, I am finished at least with it. Mea culpa for recommending this plonk…not even alcoholic plonk at that! At least with plonk you can at least still get a buzz on which dulls the brain to the awful taste.

The question is: why, after going through the entire fermentation process plus adding an expensive step didn’t they simply add more of the alcohol removed wine? My hunch is it would have at least been palatable. One can hope.

Have a happy new year but don’t lose control of your brain…unless at least you are in your own home and not going to ruin someone else’s new year…and perhaps your own.




Vol.2 No. 28 – are today’s wine prices sustainable?

Building on the theme of ‘good wine forcing out bad, globally’, there is far too much wine out there to allow prices on premium wines ($30+) to be sustainable (not to be confused with organic, sustainable, biodynamic).

Why? Consider that last year for the first time the biggest growing segment shifted from the $10 and under bracket (dominated by Two Buck Chuck), to the $10-20 range. As before, there was little to know growth in each level above $20!

therein lies the rub: more and more wines, aided and abetted by 90+ ratings are trying to price their, often unknown label with ‘comparable’ wines, of the same varietal and region, even though those wines have spent years establishing themselves. I have never seen so many new labels from so many regions that get a high rating (remember TB is opposed to paying attention to ratings since they may not be the same as you look for in a wine).

As a result, more and more labels are being seen on the internet, most notably at www.wtso.com, where you get great value, especially if you buy the number of bottles required (usually 3-4 depending on price), and no sales tax outside of New Jersey. They will even store your purchases for you in their temperature controlled warehouse for up to a year! But, while the savings are very good they are distorted by the ‘comparable value’ shown. Often these are not wineries at all but buyers of ‘sourced’ fruit, albeit often from name vineyards. But that also tells you something: why would someone who owns say the Bien Nacido vineyard sell it elsewhere IF they could sell all they produce?

Since 2008, high priced wines (except Bordeaux shipped to China, Burgundy’s and a few others), have seen declines in wine club membership…and don’t fool yourself, those are seeing it too….yes, even the $300 wines and higher…names you would recognize.

So, what is the solution, without cutting price and having a wine merchant, mainly a big box store, sell it for much less? Once that happens and the word gets out they cannot increase their prices…their future is cooked.

Enter China, and despite risks of copyright protection, at least no one in the U.S. knows what they are selling for, and the lack of transparency means that they will still be thought to be cult wines. Oops!

I will not tell the names of some of these cult wines but you would recognize many of them. Remember, a winery is about cashflow and storage costs eat heavily into that. TB’s advice: think hard before you get on the list of a highend cult wine. Also, keep looking in that $20-30 range for the best values. As TB has said before, once you get above $50, most people would not be able to perceive the quality.

Well, safely above my goal of averaging two issues a month (average), this will be the last issue for 2016. Best wishes for the New Year!

P.S. my wife stumbled uponĀ  a non-alcoholic wine label, FRE. Correction, “alcohol-removed wine”. Hmmm, I found out the label is owned by Trinchero Family, behind Gallo, the second largest family owned wine business in the world. Contrasting to all the other ‘stuff’ out there, FRE, makes a Brut, and several others, including still wines. We bought it so we could celebrate the New Year with our grandson’s. Price: $5.50. Think of this: now you can have wine with dinner with friends who don’t drink alcoh9l for religious or other reasons. Will give you feedback, and hope you will do the same!