Orders for a Stiff Drink Could Now Include a Glass of Wine

Posted on October 23rd, 2014
Posted in Substance Abuse

Heavy-DrinkingThe ad tagline “This is not your father’s Oldsmobile” could be applied to some of the substances used by young people today. At least a couple of them have become a bit stiffer over time.

It’s been widely reported that the pot smoked by today’s youth is more powerful than what their parents may have inhaled, with the levels tripling. Now we’re learning that the same thing has been happening to wine.

The alcoholic content of wine has risen from around 13 percent to above 17 percent. The reason for the upward creep is public demand for fruitier tasting wines. But do wine lovers who enjoy rich flavor have to settle for higher alcohol content?

Culture is full of fashion trends. At the moment demand is high for wines with dark color and a bright fruit taste. So called New World wines are very much in fashion. So much so that European winemakers are starting to produce vintages with a darker appearance and fruitier bouquet. Old World wines have traditionally been lighter in color and taste and definitely lower in alcoholic content.

To satisfy new tastes grapes must hang longer on the vine, which leads to higher sugar content. Yeast is used to ferment those sugars, so higher sugar content tends to equal higher alcohol content. But perhaps this won’t last.

Spanish and Australian scientists have discovered a wild yeast that could be used to ferment grape juice sugars and still produce a lower-alcohol concentration. If vintners could use grapes for color and taste, but alter the fermentation to control alcohol content, it could be a welcome achievement for everyone. Wine lovers could still enjoy a deep fruit flavor but wouldn’t have to settle for alcohol content that resembles that of whisky.

After all, a glass or two of wine with a meal was once viewed as a pleasant accompaniment. Stiff wines tend to steal the whole show, and make functioning after mealtime more of a challenge. A number of wine drinkers don’t think getting drunk on wine is pleasurable, not to mention that higher alcohol wines are also higher in calories.

Restaurants have started to suggest labels with less than 15 percent alcohol content as more suitable mealtime choices as delicately flavored wine will not overpower food. Meanwhile, scientists are hard at work testing the new yeast to see if the palates of those who favor stronger-flavored wines can be spared the unwanted high alcohol content.

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