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Are red wines getting stronger?

Reading an edition of the Financial Times published a little over a month ago, there was an article that traced the data for more than 2 decades to show a steady and pronounced increase of the alcohol content of red wines. There are various theories put into explaining the phenomenon:

  • Global warming leading to riper grapes with higher sugar contents and therefore more alcohol from fermentation

  • More efficient cultured yeast used, resulting in a more complete conversion of sugar to alcohol

  • The great influence of the wine critic Robert Parker who tended to like riper, more concentrated wines, giving rise to the term “Parkerization”, referring to some producers making their wines to appeal to Mr. Parker and the higher RP scores would invariably help selling

But things seem to be changing. Too high an alcohol level would bring about an imbalance palate. There is also a health angle in that too much alcohol cannot be good. Of course, Mr. Parker also fully retired in 2019. Indeed, to counter climate change, many winemakers now resolve into using a cooler and slower fermentation process to ensure the alcohol level to be under control. All of these have probably contributed to us seeing the alcohol level seemingly coming down somewhat in recent years.

So much on the subject and now to our suggestions of wines, starting with something really special and the rest very good too:

2008 Royal Tokaji Essencia (WA97 at $3,500/half) – The dessert wines of the Tokaji region in northeast Hungary have been considered the world's finest since the 17th century, with the Essencia being the most concentrated. It is also one of the rarest of all Tokajis as the wine is produced only in the very best years when the raisins are rich enough in sugar, and ones which the juice would take 6 to 8 years to complete fermentation, often reaching 85% residual sugar. There are only six Essencia from Royal Tokaji for the period 1990 to 2008. Pope Benedict XVI was given bottle Number 1 of the Royal Tokaji 1993 Essencia, thus reviving the ancient tradition of each Pope keeping a bottle of Essencia by his bedside to see him through any illness. To renew the custom of Russian Czars enjoying Essencia, a practice that started with Peter the Great in the 1600s, President Putin was given a few bottles of the Royal Tokaji 1999 Essencia in September 2006. Our only half bottle is offered in a stately brass-hinged wooden box containing the indulgent Royal Tokaji Hungarian crystal sipping spoon. The spoon has been designed exclusively for Royal Tokaji, enabling 25 sips per bottle — or 50 if you share your spoonful with a loved one - and the back label bears the number of each bottle produced – the total of which is a mere 2906.

2008 Deutz Cuvee William Deutz (WA95 at HK$1,180/bottle) – From one of our favourite Champagne houses, this wine offers a complex, concentrated and slightly chalky bouquet, leading to a pure and persistent palate, ending with a fresh, clear, long and stimulating finish.

2006 Pavie (RP95 at HK$2,350/bottle) – Arriving in about a week is arguably the sleeper of the vintage from a great St-Emilion estate that produced this full-bodied wine which shows lots of black currants, black cherries, licorice and cedary wood spice, all within a beautiful texture.

2010 Clos de Sarpe (WA98 at HK$870/bottle) – Another excellent St-Emilion that boosts a profound nose of blackcurrants, plums and blueberry pie with hints of chocolate, rose and cigar box. Full-bodied, rich, opulent and seductive, it has a firm frame and enough freshness for one’s palate, ending with an epically long finish.

2011 Feytit Clinet (RP95 at HK$480/bottle) – In general, 2011 is not regarded as the strongest Bordeaux vintage but Pomerols have proven to be the exception. This rich, meaty wine with loads of dark fruits is awfully good and of exceptional value too.

2007 Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape (WA96 at HK$670/bottle) – From one of the great estates of the Rhone Valley, this full-bodied, vibrant wine has a glorious nose of blue and black fruits, truffles, pen ink, licorice and meat, with the acidity and sweet tannins to make drinking it an unforgettable indulgence.

2018 Sadie Family Columella (WA95 at HK$650/bottle) – If you haven’t tried South African wine, it is not a bad idea to start with the Sadie Family, long considered one of the top wineries from the country. The Columella is a medium-bodied Shiraz blend that explodes from the glass with high-toned, dark fruit aromas, making way for a delightful mineral tension sensation across the mid-palate before concluding with a long, evolving finish. Seductive and intoxicating stuff indeed!

Thank you for reading. You may also like to browse our website to view the full wine list. Purchases can be made through the website or by sending us an e-mail or simply WhatsApp 9195-7383.


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