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A Case Study in Balance: Zinfandel

The model for Pinot Noir cannot apply to every grape

Posted: Nov 12, 2012 12:00pm ET

Balance in wine, as most of us describe it, is the harmony of fruit, acid, tannins and alcohol, such that no one component is all elbow, so to speak. Sounds agreeable, but the word balance—and what it implies in the modern wine world—has become a more complex and symbolic topic than that description suggests. And generalizing what balance means in wine, whether via degrees alcohol or grams of residual sugar, has become risky business.

The word balance in California, for example, has come to symbolize a movement toward restraint and lower alcohol levels, particularly in Pinot Noir. Rajat Parr, one of the wine world's most respected sommeliers and the beverage director at the Michael Mina Group, has earned three Wine Spectator Grand Awards for his wine lists. He has also become infamous for refusing to sell Pinot Noir that clocks in over 14 percent alcohol at RN74 in San Francisco and has started an organization called In Pursuit of Balance, along with Jasmine Hirsch, of Hirsch Winery in Sonoma. It's composed of producers making Pinot Noir and Chardonnay who are advocates for balance, which they believe is achieved at lower alcohol levels (though the percentage is not precisely defined).

Parr's taken heat (lame pun intended), but he has a very good point when it comes to Pinot Noir. In my experience, when Pinot starts creeping over 14.5 percent alcohol, more often than not it turns into a tall glass of Lawrence Taylor; it struggles for the complexity and elegance that make the grape great. Though I don't consider it an absolute, I do think it's much easier to use degrees alcohol as a guide to seeking balance in Pinot. But Pinot's model cannot, and should not, be applied as a set of parameters for all grapes seeking restraint.

Consider Zinfandel. To be fair, Zin's body image issues began before it was placed in contrast to California's balance movement as told by Pinot. In fact, no other grape in California has suffered a rap worse than Zin's when it comes to questions of balance. In the mid-1990s, Zinfandel built its image on massive, opulent wines that would flirt with 17 percent alcohol and, to add insult to injury, residual sugar. These were wines to grease your door hinges with, or turn a friendly dinner party into an all-night rager, hangover included. But Zin, like Pinot and Chardonnay, can also claim a growing crop of producers like Turley, Bedrock Wine Co. and Carlisle, to name a few, that are moving Zin away from the noise of the '90s and back toward the "claret style" of Zinfandel—characterized by lower alcohol and higher acid, sans residual sugar—popularized in the 1970s.

By virtue of the way the grape grows, even the more classic expressions of Zinfandel clock in around 14.5 percent or higher. Unlike Pinot, Zin's movement toward restraint cannot be packaged neatly under 14 percent alcohol, and that's why Zinfandel—despite the number of restrained wines being made today—has found itself ostracized, to a certain degree, from California's balance movement; its alcohol levels have become its stigmata. The same could be said, though to a less visible degree, about Grenache. Some of the best versions of the grape being made in California, like Angela Osborne's elegant and balanced A Tribute to Grace Grenache Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard, often flirt with 15 percent alcohol.

Although the balance movement seems to be exacerbating some of Zin's image issues, Morgan Twain-Peterson, the son of Ravenswood founder Joel Peterson and the owner and winemaker of Bedrock Wine Co., sees the movement as still having a potentially positive impact on Zin, at least from a winemaking standpoint.

"Zin by nature accrues higher alcohol," said Twain-Peterson. "But the current movement toward fresher, brighter wines still does benefit Zinfandel; it's a very different thing when you get a Zin from picking at 29 Brix and watering back and adding acid as opposed to picking at 23.5 to get to 25 Brix [because of Zin's uneven clustering, alcohol levels tend to increase after crush] without adding water or acid."

But many producers—including those who have always made more restrained Zinfandel, like Mike Dashe of Dashe Cellars, Jay Heminway of Green and Red and Paul Draper of Ridge Vineyards, as well as Turley, which led Zin on its mid-1990s crusade for girth but has since become a clear voice in the quest to bring it back to the claret days—are still left clinging to the footboard of the balance bandwagon, hoping someone will offer a hand. That's a shame, because their work in rebirthing the claret style of Zinfandel is as important to the future of California wine as the work of winemakers like Ted Lemon, Jamie Kutch or Ross Cobb when it comes to more elegant California Pinot Noir.

Part of allowing for a more rounded and complete balance movement in California will require that we do not apply Pinot's model to every grape. If we do, we may all miss out on a whole lot of progress.

Brian Loring
Lompoc, CA —  November 12, 2012 1:21pm ET
Is it possible that Zinfandel is "allowed" to be a bit higher in alcohol and still be considered in balance due to the fact that it's basically a California grape? Because it has no comparison in France?

And that possibly Pinot Noir grown in California should also be afforded that same latitude (pun intended) due to terroir differences?

-- Brian Loring
-- Loring Wine Company
William Matarese
Florida, USA —  November 12, 2012 1:27pm ET
Good luck to those winemakers who are trying to re-establish a "claret style of Zinfandel".

Personally, if I want a claret, I'll open a claret. If I want a big, spicy fruit bomb that screams "Sonoma", I'll open a Zinfandel.
David Rossi
Napa, CA, USA —  November 12, 2012 1:48pm ET
Great article Talia. I think Zin can be just as balanced as Pinot. It's just that it seems that after your introductory comments(where you were dead on with what balance means to most of us)you adopted the idea that low alcohol is balance. Of course lower alcohol is just lower alcohol, not balance. There is no magical line of alcohol demarcation that makes a wine balanced( or new oak %, tannin, extract, fruit impression,acid, RS). It's the totality of the wine. It may be hard to explain, but like the Supreme Court said of pornography, "you know it when you see it" or in this case, taste it. We can't just take one aspect of balance and make that the litmus test. When you finish with talking about the "Pinot model", I think "whose model?" Certainly not mine.

So I beleive that with this context Zin, Petite Sirah, Cabernet, or any other varietal can be in balance and show restraint. They don't have to be overblown and confected and they don't have to be thin, grassy and acidic.

At least this is what I am counting on as we are known as a Pinot Noir producer that strives for balance, and this year we are making our first Petite Sirah. We are crafting what we think is a balanced wine, but it is guaranteed to be over 14.3% alcohol. Please don't make up your mind that it isn't balanced yet or that our Pinots aren't either. Alc% isn't everything.

David Rossi
Fulcrum Wines
David W Voss
elkhorn, Wi —  November 12, 2012 2:40pm ET
Thanks Brian and David for adding a little "balance" to this blog. Sometimes wine bloggers strike me as becoming too full of their own vision of what we as consumers should like. If a chef or sommelier who uses an arbitrary number to decide if a wine is alright is just as bad as the consumers I see running around the wine store with a list of 90 and above wines in their hands.
Talia Baiocchi
Brooklyn, NY —  November 12, 2012 4:01pm ET
David R.,

Thanks so much for your comment. With all due respect, I do think you may be misunderstanding me a bit. I do not define balance by lower alcohol. In fact, that's exactly what I am arguing against in the case of zinfandel (I would argue it for other grapes as well).

As I mention, based on my experience I tend to prefer pinot noir with less extraction and ripeness, so I acknowledge that I see a pattern in my preference toward lower alcohol pinot noir. And I do notice that pinot noir does struggle for balance, IMO, when alcohol levels creep into the high 14% range. But it is not an absolute and in no way am I arguing for it to be the be-all and end-all for CA pinot. Just because I prefer a certain style of pinot noir, doesn't mean I wish to abolish the other. I wish that wasn't always the assumption. I am for diversity.

But whether you (or me or anyone) like or not, the new meaning of "balance" in California pinot noir is being defined by lower alcohol. My argument is against allowing this new "model" for balanced pinot—which, like I said, is increasingly defined by lower alcohol—being applied to grapes that simply can't, or have a very hard time, achieving balance at lower alcohol levels. Zin is a prime example of that.

California is seeing new buyers and consumers who used to shun the state and its wines, coming back to see what's there because they are finding more and more wines made in a less overt style. That's a great thing. But again, like it or not, many of them care about alcohol levels.

I'm talking to them in this piece. Among many of these new consumers and buyers zinfandel is still pigeonholed, even though it too can claim producers that are trying to find out, once again, what restraint means in a grape that has been largely defined by the opposite.

But what's keeping this crowd away from discovering sort of "softer side" of zin that producers like Bedrock, Turley, Dashe, Carlisle, etc. all embody is the notion that because the wines are in the 14% alcohol range, they can't be balanced or restrained. I see this prejudice being linked to the expectations many people now have for restrained pinot noir in CA and I am arguing for a less categorical understanding of what "restraint" and "balance" mean in wine.

Hope that helps clarify a bit. This is a complicated topic that deserves far more than 800 words.
Adam Lee
Santa Rosa, CA —  November 12, 2012 4:01pm ET

I am always interested in statements like, "In my experience, when Pinot starts creeping over 14.5 percent alcohol, more often than not it turns into a tall glass of Lawrence Taylor" -- May I ask how you know the Pinot/Burgundy is over 14.5% alcohol? Due to the variances in labeling law the Pinot Noir labeled at 14.4% that seems in balance might actually be 15.4%...or 14.05% alcohol.

I have long believed in balance in wine (Pinot and othrwise), but without a bevy of labwork to accurately identify the various numbers behind the makeup of a wine (which I have on my own wines, but can't afford to perform on the wines of others), I can't easily put a line on the level of alcohol...or acidity....where this balance occurs.

Thanks so much for your thoughts!

Adam Lee
Siduri Wnes

Brian Loring
Lompoc, CA —  November 12, 2012 4:39pm ET

Thanks for the more detailed explanation. But, while to some it may seem like:

"whether you (or me or anyone) like or not, the new meaning of "balance" in California pinot noir is being defined by lower alcohol."

I don't agree with that at all - despite what one group of winemakers would like everyone to believe. While it's true that a number of producers are striving for low alochols in Pinot (and I wish them all the best), I still think that's going against California terroir. Just as saying Zinfandel needs to be lower in alc would also be anti-terroir. Pinot doesn't need to be separated out.
Tim Fish
Santa Rosa, CA —  November 12, 2012 6:28pm ET

I appreciate your perspective. I’ve been drinking Zinfandel since the mid-1980s and review about 500 Zins a year for the magazine and my perspective is a bit different.

I think it’s easy for Zin drinkers to see this as a left-handed compliment. They’ve been getting lectures from the East Coast and Europe for years. Too often they’ve watched folks raised on claret and Burgundy turn their nose at 2 or 3 Zinfandels and then write off the entire wine. Few have taken the time to get a wider experience. Also, in my view, a person’s wine drinking history influences his or her sense of appropriateness and balance. How would a California winemaker be judged if he thought Côte-Rôtie was too gamey?

If California Zin is finding new consumers, and I believe it is, is not because winemakers are striving for a more claret style. They’re simply making better wines. The vineyards are farmed better, the sorting selections in the winery are more meticulous, and the list goes on.

The alcohol levels in most cases are a bit lower and the acids are more distinct, but 2009, 2010 and 2011 were also cooler vintages. Balance is key in Zinfandel, I agree, but what makes Zin unique – why many people love it – is its personality, character and bold, fresh fruit.

The top Zin winemakers strive to bring out the best and what’s distinctive about the vineyard and the vintage. The Zins of the mid-1990s were mostly big and ripe because those were very warm years. Also, many young winemakers were finding their voice and pushing the envelope to bring out the most in their Zins. Once those winemakers got to know their vineyards, there was a natural temperance that seemed to happen, but that’s been going on since the 2005 vintage.

As for the 1970s Zins, many remember those wines with rose-colored glasses. They were quite diverse in style. For every claret-wannabe there was a monster Zin with 16% alcohol or higher and plenty of residual sugar.

Finally, I think you make a great point about the wines of Turley, Carlisle and Bedrock. These are balanced, excellent wines. The fact that some of their recent wines have 15.8 percent alcohol is really beside the point.
Don Rauba
Schaumburg, IL —  November 12, 2012 7:35pm ET
Great topic for a blog, but I'm not sure I agree with your point Talia. While I think that there is a point to be made about balance, I don't think it has all that much to do with alcohol percentages, as many of your readers (and winemakers) have also just pointed out.

So many other facets weigh into someone's perception of "balance" (other than just alc %), like extraction, raisin/prune/balsamic, herbal qualities, tannins, acids/acidity, use of wood, char, et al... I've begun to think that this concept of balance is not capturable in terms of scientific measurements (like alc %), but rather that it is every bit as subjective as whether someone "likes" a wine or not.

That being said, here's the limb I'm willing to go out upon: When one combines the knowledge about the winemaker or vintner, the place a wine comes from, and the vintage year, together with technical measurements like alcohol %, I believe one can make more educated guesses as to the style inside the bottle... but I realize that's not saying much.
Bob Kulperger
Tiburon, California, USA —  November 12, 2012 11:49pm ET

I really enjoyed your nuanced article but it's not surprising that it would draw the fire that you see in the comments above. You see, if you search the hills and caves of Napa, you'll still find hiding out a number of the "fruit bombers" of yore. Over-extracted, spinning cone, reverse osmosis, back-of-the-throat burners are their faded glories and their high priest, Mr. Laube, is a new colleague of yours (be careful there Talia). Why some of them will even try to convince you that these old bombs represent a "California style" of wine because well, they say so.

Luckily the market as a whole (not just Rajat Parr and gang) has moved away from a chapter of winemaking better left in the past. The much older concept of wine as a partner for food has re-asserted itself and your old-fashioned concept of "balance" has re-taken its rightful place as the primary measue of a wine. (Doesn't balance have a nicer ring than extraction?)

That doesn't mean you're safe from those fruit bombers. Keep an eye out as you write your new blog.
David Strada
San Francisco, CA —  November 13, 2012 12:38am ET

It was good to read your piece and the many comments. You make some very good points, as do the commenters.

May I add that back in the day, those of us who appreciated the claret-style of Zinfandel did so not because we wanted it to be claret, there was plenty of that available at affordable prices, but because we saw that as the best expression of the Zinfandel grape in California.

And just as with the 100 point rating scale, alcohol percentage is a numeric way of characterizing a wine. There is more to the story than just numbers. I am one who does not appreciate the sensation of a high-alcohol wine, regardless of the grape. Further, I do not appreciate the aromas and flavors in most cases that accompany a high-alcohol wine. If I want prunes, I will drink a Port. I don't think I am alone in that and I have felt that way since I learned to enjoy wine.
Idaho —  November 13, 2012 2:05am ET

Great article. I agree with you in regards to balance. I'm also not surpised to see both Adam Lee & Brian Loring posting against your beliefs. Keep on posting!
Adam Lee
Santa Rosa, CA —  November 13, 2012 2:07am ET

One of my favorite wine quotes, "“You know, a grower would like to have all his grapes in the barn by Labor Day, and I think they should hang on the vines until Christmas, so we’re always squabbling. But this is normal, nothing wrong with that.”

That wasn't a fruit bomber...from an age that should be forgotten. That was Joe Heitz in 1976.

Adam Lee
Siduri Wines
Thomas Herer
Kenwood, CA —  November 13, 2012 2:08am ET

Great post (and rebuttal), and acknowledge that it's written about Zin's coming of age, which is something I find really interesting and haven't thought enough about. Appreciated.

It was confusing for me tho -- and perhaps for others -- mainly because the preamble was devoted to Parr & Co. and their still-fledging movement, and the contentious idea that balance is found at an ABV percentage point.

I looked up Parr a while back when I heard about his > 14% Pinot ban; figured it was some sort of wine bigotry. There's a blog post of his that I dug back up (http://sanfrancisco.grubstreet.com/2010/09/rajat_parr_sf_diet.html) which runs down what he ate and drank over ~a week spent between the CA South Coast wine country and his restaurant.

It's a good read if you're interested; my takeaway was that he had a series of very full days during which he cooked and ate well, made his own CA wine (which I haven't tried but have heard is outstanding), and drank mostly imported and precious Old World wines. If nothing else, he dazzles with his depth of understanding and food and wine pairing talent.

Moreover, he was extremely thoughtful about all his meals and the wines that went with them. Of course -- he's a sommelier, not a bartender. He's among the best in the world at things such as wine service, and integrating fine wine into fine dining. It's easy to be cynical and think he's trying to impose an Old World sensibility on a New World culture and terroir; I prefer to think that he's just a great sommelier that's amadamant about putting the right fine foods and wines together.

E.g., here's a somm-y quote from the post that stood out to me: "Next came the parsnip and guanciale risotto with Arlot Romanee St. Vivant 1996. The wine was firm and lean. It needed the richness of the guanciale to make the wine shine." On one hand, I'm thinking that sounds like a great pairing. But on another hand, I'm thinking...what's that, Rajat? The wine shone, but not without another element to bring it into...balance?

Case in point, my wife and I are splitting a bottle of '10 LWC Cargasacchi Pinot tonight. No coincidence at all, I swear. It's outstanding, just delicious. Would it be the perfect companion to a parsnip and guanciale risotto? Maybe not -- I'm hardly a pro somm. But considering Michael Mina was unavailable to cook for us, we're fresh out of fatty pig cheeks, and our last elaborate multi-course/wine meal was a month or two ago, it was a dream. Before, during, and after the salad that we put together after a long day with work and the kids.

My aim isn't to be snarky or to scrutinize Rajat Parr, it's to say that "balance" has much more to do with terroir, culture, and context than it does with technical benchmarks and measurements. If his movement's core tenet sounded less like "low ABV wines are better" and more like "lower ABV wines can be a superior companion to a comprehensive dining experience, and there are some amazing underappreciated ones from CA's cooler climates," I wouldn't reject it.

So for us, tonight, the LWC was totally complete. Rich and fleshy, but also detailed, complex, and with minerality and acidity to spare. Even at 14.7% ABV (yes, Adam, on the label :) ). If that's not balance, I defy Bob from Tiburon to tell me what is. Regardless, Mr. Parr knows what works with the food on RN74's menu, and if this bottle doesn't, so be it. That's his context and balance; not mine.

Talia, thanks again for the thought-provoking post. -Tom
David Rossi
Napa, CA, USA —  November 13, 2012 9:24am ET

Sorry if I misunderstood you. Hopefully you can try some of our wines (that range in Alc%)and we can really discuss our collective thoughts on balance.

As far as the defining what balance is, I am a radical moderate, so I will do everything I can to fight anyone to says balance is just low alcohol. And I know you are not one of the people saying this.

You said in the above reply that you prefer wines that come from fruit that is less ripe and less extracted. On this we agree. However neither one of those things are directly tied to Alc%. We can take over-ripe fruit and add a lot of water and get you whatever alc% you want. As far as extraction that is totally decoupled from sugar levels.

What I find is odd is that it sounds like we really agree with each other on wine styles and needing a well rounded definition of balance. So how are we on opposing sides of this issue? Maybe we are not.

For our part, we will work to avoid our wines to be defined narrowly and I won't change my winemaking to conform. We founded a winery on the concept of balance and named it thus. We stand by our definition and our mission. At the end of the day is our 14.1% wine unbalanced versus a 13.9% version? I think it will just take more work on our part to try to show people our wines and have this same conversation.

Great chatting with you. I'm in NJ for the next two months and can be in Brooklyn anytime you want with a selection of wines. Or come to Pinot Days at City Winery in January. Good luck with this new forum.

David Rossi
Fulcrum Wines
David Bidwell
Cardiff, Californina —  November 13, 2012 11:15am ET
This is a great discussion and one I have been interested in. I have two points to add.

First, the notion of big and bold wines built on ripe (mature) grapes is a style that California discovered and adopted due to its climate. The consumer then identified with it due to obvious reasons. It was a style that took off. Recall that previous to that California tried to emulate European wines. For example, I have a poster of a 1984 Silver Oak Bonny's Vineyard Cabernet label that indicates the alcohol is 12.2%. Hard to find that low of an alcohol these days anywhere in CA. But it was their attempt at producing a wine with balance and age-ability. In my opinion the notion and pursuit of balance has never gone away. This pursuit has instead integrated the benefit of a long and mild growing season to produce mature grapes. Combine that with the media looking for the next big thing (or unfamiliarity with the past), and the pendulum appears to swing back to "restraint" and we have now discovered a new movement! No surprise there. When we tire of restraint it will be back to big...

Regarding alcohol content I can vouch for the inaccuracy of the label. I belong to a wine club (who I won't mention because I love their wine) and got a shipment of a viognier, a single vineyard syrah, and a grenache blend. Comparing the labels, I noticed that they all were advertised to have an alcohol content of 16.1%. Imagine the coincidence! Not! So now I never believe what I read. I don't fault the producers. They have to estimate the value that will end up in the bottle at the time they are ordering labels. Instead, I just use it as a rough guide and let my palate help me judge reality.
Ray Everett
San Francisco, CA —  November 13, 2012 12:52pm ET
One of my epiphany wines (granted, I've a few different epiphanies over the years...), was when I discovered Zinfandel that was in that more claret style and trending away from the big, hot fruit bombs. That happened when I started exploring the Zins of the Russian River Valley and Dry Creek Valley areas of Sonoma, along with other Sonoma Zins. Ridge and Turley are making great stuff from fruit around Sonoma, and my current obsession is a small producer called Harvest Moon, but there are many great Zins coming out of that area. Moreover, they're aging well too: Recently I tasted a vertical including 2003s and 2004s from Harvest Moon and they were quite astonishing (and could have laid down even longer). So bravo to the Zin producers who are experimenting... it's our best claim to a true "American" varietal.
Gerry Ansel
Fullerton, Calif —  November 13, 2012 7:27pm ET
Personally, I don't like "big" wines, Zin or otherwise. Zinfandel has the potential for greater complexity if producers would only dial back some of the fruit so the tertiary flavors could come through.
Peter Heinecke
San Francisco, CA —  November 14, 2012 1:05am ET
David Strada:

I think you are absolute right about the lure of a "claret" style zinfandel. I find those wines to be be more interesting and complex than the jammy fruit bomb that is the stereotype of zin. Of course, a "claret" zin is still going to be fruit forward -- it is not going to be lean like a burgundy. But by not letting the grapes get super-ripe, one can still taste the spice, fresh red fruit and other flavors that make zinfandel an alluring wine. Picking the grapes a little bit earlier will generally lead to a lower alcohol content, but that is not really the point. The goal is to pick the fruit when the most interesting flavors will get into the wine --and then being careful with the oak treatment. Given the variability of zin's ripening in different areas and in different years, focusing on alcohol is not that helpful.

Fortunately, many producers (including many beyond those mentioned) are focused on bringing out the best in zin; though I suspect that there will always be producers and consumers who want that fruit bomb with a big dollop vanilla at the end. To each his own.


Fog's Edge Winery
Clark Smith
Santa Rosa, CA —  November 14, 2012 12:57pm ET
I have always thought it a mistake to bottle Zin in a claret bottle. The understated aromatics, herbal notes, solid, well-knit tannin structure and organized flavor line of Bordeaux are hardly Zin-like. It’s much more like a burgundy: a brash explosion of fruit, grainy at worst and silky at best. David Bruce always insisted on a Burgundy bottle, and his wines bridge the gap to Pinot rather convincingly.

Four features fundamentally distinguish Zinfandel from claret. The first is its uneven ripening, with green berries and raisins together on the same cluster. The second is its projectile fruit aromatics (though Malbec shares this trait). Third, it is very low in cofactors, and thus extracts color very poorly unless cofermented with Petite Sirah, Alicante Bouschet or other helper variety. Fourth, it is very tender towards oxygen, easily falling apart if mishandled.

Zin doesn’t age like claret either. The Deaver Ranch ’68 and ’70 are still alive today, silky and perfumey, but aromatically full of exotic petrol, resembling for all the world an old Rheingau. The longer it hangs, the more fragile Zinfandel becomes. As alcohols have climbed, our Zins have begun to fall apart in the cellar. In an era when nearly half the reds made in California are de-alcoholized, there need be no connection between harvest brix and bottle alcohol, and it’s been shown time and again that the same wine ages much better at lower alcohol.

That said, The Nalle and Carol Shelton wines often emulate the Super-Tuscans, offering a solid tannin floor that supports the fruit with admirable finesse. The Dry Creek and Rockpile AVAs tend to give us solid Zins with more even maturity within the cluster.

However, anything less than a pruney blockbuster would be a disappointment in an Amador Zin, where the blazing western sun has long crowned this the Amarone of America. While I applaud the move back to the ‘70s style, the Big Zin also has its place.

Clark Smith
WineSmith / AppellationAmerica.com
Kc Tucker
Escondido, CA USA —  November 14, 2012 9:27pm ET
Chuckled at the reference to Turley zins as "restrained."
Balanced wines just taste better. Saucelito Canyon Zin is an example. Seghesio is another.

Jim Kern
Holiday Wine Cellar
North San Diego County, California
Andrew Friedlander
Amador County, CA —  November 14, 2012 11:48pm ET
Wow you certainly struck a cord with many. We agree with your comments and Tim Fish's as well. Keep it coming.
andy friedlander
Andis Wines
Dustin Gillson
Dayton, OH —  November 16, 2012 8:08am ET
I should have guessed that this article would create such a response, but I love this discussion.

I would like to see a winemaker directly attack this issue by making the same wine in both styles, perhaps even selling the bottles together. If a Loring or a Siduri would pick a single vineyard pinot once at 21.5 brix and again at 25.5 brix we might be able to eliminate some of the arguments that this or that site make a better wine when treated this way. The blocks of the vineyard would be different, obviously, but the comparison would be much closer than comparing a 14.9% Kosta Browne to a 13.4% Hirsch.
Eric Stokes
Raleigh, NC —  November 16, 2012 8:38am ET
I have been in the wine business for 20 years and to this day I have never heard anyone ask for a wine that was unbalanced.

I know very sophisticated wine drinkers who espouse balanced wines who drink 15.8% Alcohol Syrah, and 14.8% Alcohol pinots - and claim the wines are perfectly balanced - and other very sophisticated wine drinkers who taste the exact same wines and say they are horribly flawed and overly hot. Can it be that balance is just another way of saying - this wine is good and I like it?

As we all know from our physics courses - if you shift the fulcrum (our personal tastes) then balance shifts as well.

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