Some high-end Cabernets leave a burning sensation on my tongue. What to do?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

In some high-end Cabernets, I get a burning-like sensation on the tongue. Would that be high alcohol? If so, would decanting the wine lessen the effect?

—Cedric C., Honolulu

Dear Cedric,

Yes, it could be the alcohol—when it “sticks out” of a wine (which is sometimes referred to as “heat” or a “hot wine”), the impression it makes can be similar to the burning sensation you’ve described. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a high-alcohol wine for the alcohol to stick out, just an unbalanced one.

Decanting the wine might help—it doesn’t actually change the alcohol level, but the wine might seem more integrated with aeration, and some of the volatile compounds can evaporate. I also recommending chilling the wine down—yes, even a Cabernet—as any wine served too warm is at risk of seeming out of balance. Enjoying the wine with food might help. But it could just be that you personally have a heightened level of alcohol sensitivity.

—Dr. Vinny

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