I recently posted to Facebook that I was working on the Thanksgiving wine list for Gayot.com. I was surprised to get negative pushback from some of my colleagues. Basically, they just objected to the fact that it’s a tired concept. Ok, agreed. But what do consumers want this time of year? They want wine experts to suggest a game plan for Holiday meals.
For the Gayot piece, my solution was to suggest an array of American wines that celebrated many of our nation’s varied wine regions and at price points to suit every budget. But for Gayot, I don’t have the sort of leeway I have with my own column.
A holiday survival guide for wine lovers
So I thought long and hard about what the wine world has failed to offer consumers. Finally, it occurred to me. What most of us truly need this time of year is a wine list that serves as a survival guide. We need wines that will give the world a rosy glow, take the edge off Aunt Ida’s grating voice and morph the mother-in-law into a silent garden gnome. I’m talking about high alcohol wines.
The average wine has around 12% alcohol by volume. Many wines, like the Moscato d’Asti from Piedmont, have a far lower percentage of alcohol. (These are NOT the wines to serve at a family gathering when your goal is to soothe your nerves with liquid gold.) But there are wines with alcohol percentages that creep above 15%.
These high alcohol wines, like California Zinfandels, Italian Amarone and Spanish Sherry are the wines you’re going to want to bring to the party. You may also want to look for wines from Australia’s Barossa Valley and California’s Paso Robles region for something bold, rich and merriment-making. Here are just a few high-alcohol wine suggestions.
My high alcohol wine recommendations
Mollydooker Gigglepot Cabernet Sauvignon, Australia
This wine is worth purchasing as a hostess gift for the name alone. I challenge you to find me anyone who doesn’t smile when they’re handed a Gigglepot. But to sweeten the deal, this big, bad Cab makes my list of high alcohol wines because it comes in at 15.5% alcohol by volume (ABV). As the name implies, it’s a wine with a walloping personality. Its fruits are cherry and plum with vanilla, toasted nuts and spice dancing in the background.
Justin Isosceles, Paso Robles, California
This is one of Paso’s better-known red blends. It’s made from Cabernet Sauvignon with some Cab Fran and a touch of Merlot. The result is a complex wine with black fruit flavors with hints of cinnamon, vanilla and a toasty note from the new oak. But most importantly, this high alcohol red wine delivers a delicious 15% ABV.
Jaboulet Beaumes de Venise Muscat Le Chant des Griolles, Rhone, France
If you’re looking for white wines to bring some added Holiday cheer, you might want to start with France’s Beaumes de Venise. These unique, high ABV wines from the Rhone Valley are fortified, making them as potent as a hot climate red. The Jaboulet offers intense flavors of sweet tropical fruits but with a balance of acidity so that the sweetness isn’t too pronounced…and it comes in at 15% ABV.
Taylor Fladgate 40 Year Old Tawny Port, Portugal
If you want a truly spectacular wine to serve the in-laws–and drown any sorrows their presence might cause, this is the wine. One of the finest Ports money can buy, Taylor’s 40-Year-Old Tawny is the rare high ABV wine with extraordinary grace. Rich with citrus and almond flavors, its alcohol translates to richness of texture rather than heat. At 20% ABV, it’s a potent drink but one that provides intense pleasure with every sip.
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