Spoiler Alert: 2010 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon revisits the 1970s.

If you were to have dinner in the 1970s tonight, your conversation about current events — the oil crisis, the energy crisis, and the crisis Richard Simmons is having with his hair — would perhaps be lubricated by a soft Napa Cabernet powered by an alcohol level of around 12 or 13 percent by volume.

These days, most Napa Cabs are fortified with alcohol levels around 15 percent. Why? The easy answer is that critics like Robert Parker (the influential “Emperor of Wine”) and their palates for big, ripe, juicy, alcoholic Cabernet have skewed wine-making practices over recent decades. To be exact, they’ve skewed the practice of letting grapes accumulate more ripeness and sugar before picking. I’m not complaining — I think super-ripe stuff can be supremely delicious.

Turley's 2007 Ueberroth Zin, clocking in at 16.2% alcohol -- typical of modern California wine, not just California Zin.

This 1979 St. Clement Cabernet clocked in at 13% alcohol by vol.


1978 Souverain Cellars "Burgundy," whatever that would've been, clocking in at 12.5% alcohol

But it’s looking like 2010 Napa Cabernet isn’t gonna fall into that category. My own small batch of it is evolving into a quiet, friendly Bordeauxesque Cab like what you would’ve had over dinner in 1978. (With hints of French and American oak and brown sugar on the nose, and not so much the green bell peppers I’ve been worried about.)

It’s true: Reports are circulating about the legendary Paul Hobbs and countless others having to reject a ton (well, far more than a ton, no doubt) of grapes because they were unusably unripe. But a lot of that stuff was grown (or trying to be grown) at cooler altitudes. Meaning we’re gonna have a lot of still-usable 1970s-style juice coming out of the valley itself, if my own Cab is any indication. It’s just that some of it — if it didn’t ripen enough — might taste vegetal, herbaceous and bell-peppery, especially if growers didn’t practice any crop thinning.

And yes, you could say that the 1980s and 1990s saw a lot of 12- and 13-percent California wines, too. Coming to mind is the 1995 Jarvis Cabernet we had the other night: 13 percent.

Advertisements
Published in: on March 22, 2011 at 2:59 am  Leave a Comment  

The URI to TrackBack this entry is: https://bottlingroom.wordpress.com/2011/03/22/spoiler-alert-2010-napa-cabernet-sauvignon-revisits-the-1970s/trackback/

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: