Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.
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
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.