What is the issue?When cruising and away from trusted sources, in countries where your preferred speciality wines are not available, the selection can be limited or hard to discern due to language differences. This can make it virtually impossible to identify a good wine whilst stocking a vessel.
To make things worse it makes sense for yachtsmen to opt for wine in bulk cartons as they are lighter, less brittle and can be more easily stored than the equivalent amount of bottles. As often as not these cartons are typically bought in quantity at wholesale prices in discount stores where sampling is not possible or at the very least most unusual. Typically, the purchase is also performed as part of an overall provisioning run, where it is not the focal point of the agenda. Hence the wine can be subject to on a wing and a prayer purchase.
Why address this?These overlapping circumstances often conspire to produce a large quantity of an awful product that has to be endured for a very long time. I speak from bitter experience.
How to address this?Generally when selecting a wine, as a rule of thumb, only purchase wine that has a minimum 13% alcohol content or above.
This might seem modest or unsurprising to an American reader as the average range of dry American wines is somewhere between 13.5%–15%. This moderately high content is typical of warm climate growing regions such as California, Argentina, Australia, Spain and Southern Italy. But for the rest of the world 11.5%–13.5% alcohol content is the average.
In recent times wine is naturally acquiring a higher alcohol content. The yeasts of the 1950’s would not survive in alcohol levels that climbed above 13.5%. But modern science has lead to the development of very resilient yeasts that can survive in alcohol levels as high as 16.5%.
As a whole, high alcohol content is indicative of the grapes being on the vine long enough to accumulate sufficient sugar to achieve naturally high sugar content and flavour. Sugar can be added to artificially achieve this but it is not common.
This simple rule of thumb of 'at least 13%' alcohol content is not for wine connoisseurs. It is for people who enjoy wine, but have not ventured into the area in depth, are on uncertain ground, on a budget, in a wholesale store and in a hurry, and this simple guideline should help to avoid the worst of the wines.
With thanks to:Michael Harpur, with thanks to Johnny and Emer, Yacht Pala.
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Damian Byrne wrote this review on Mar 16th 2008:
On purchasing wine, your advice is sound, but I am often faced with such a wide choice of excellent local wine and so little time, I have determined to follow the old adage of " ..When in Rome do as the Romans do..". If the shelf is half empty then I will look there first. So far it has proved to be an easy and foolproof method of discovering the best of the local. Salut, Yamad, Slan agus Skol.
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