Should we lament that the taste of wines have changed? | New Brief out, #194 | The Wine & Wine Travel Newsletter

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Per Karlsson portrait Britt Karlsson portraitShould we lament that the taste of wines have changed?

That the wines we are accustomed to drinking will eventually change is probably inevitable in the wake of climate change. Some regions may need to change the grape variety, the heat may cause the acidity to drop, etc. This is especially a problem for the winegrowers who may be facing more unpredictable weather.

But for the wine consumers? Is it a problem for us that the taste of the wines we drink changes?

Hardly. Although sometimes media likes to put it that way.

Because haven’t the taste of wine developed and changed ever since man began to make wine?

How did the wines taste before phylloxera hit during the second half of the 19th century? Nobody knows today. Although some (no names, but I think especially of a certain wine grower in Graves) think they know and say that they have found the original Bordeaux flavour by using un-grafted vines.

If you are looking for the “original taste”, how far back must you go? How long have the wines we are drinking today tasted like this?

Those who started drinking wine in the 1970s and 1980s know that there has been a tremendous change in quality and variety since then. And thus, also of taste and character. We drink totally different wines today. Even the wines that come from the same regions that we drank at the time taste quite different today.

In fact, wine consumers easily accept new tastes. Remember when the New World wines emerged in the 1990s. People quickly became accustomed to (and liked) the more powerful and alcohol-richer warm-climate wines.

The alcohol level affects taste and structure. That the level is higher today probably has something to do with global warming. But it probably has more to do with better technology and techniques in the vineyard and in the cellar and with the fact that we drink more wines from warmer regions today. Not only wines from the New World but also from e.g. southern Italy and southern France, wines that were not widely exported before.

By and large, most consumers like a good dose of alcohol and rich wines. Otherwise, we would not have this explosion of appassimento wines (this is true especially for Scandinavia) or the (in)famous “New World” style. In wine tastings, powerful wines almost always win over light and elegant wines.

But the alcohol is now back on the agenda. It is too high according to some consumers. And media. The trend right now is towards low-alcohol wines.

But think about it, does it really make any significant difference, 12.5% or 14.5%? Lower than 12.5% is unusual. 14.5% is something we often hear people worry about. “You get too much alcohol.” But the difference in alcohol intake is minimal. If you share a bottle of 12.5% wine on two, i.e. drink 37.5 cl, the difference is only a small extra splash of wine, 6 cl, and then you have reached the same alcohol intake as if you were drinking wine of 14.5%. So, the lower alcohol contents are “compensated” quickly by taking an extra sip of the slightly lighter low-alcohol wine.

But now, when there is actually a real interest from consumers for wines with lower alcohol, and researchers are working hard to find the best solutions to lower the alcohol levels, isn’t it bizarre that chaptalization of the must is allowed in Europe? Yes, throughout Europe, not just the northern part, although there are some local restrictions. And chaptalization, or “enrichment” as it is also called, has no function other than raising the alcohol level.

By now the autumn’s busiest travel season has come to an end.

September and October have been filled with activities. We have organised and guided more than fifteen wine tours during these two hectic harvest months, to France, Italy, Spain and Portugal.

So now it’s time to think ahead.

There is still a chance to join two of this winter’s long-distance tours: to beautiful and exciting South Africa in February and to New Zealand in March. New Zealand is so much more than just sauvignon blanc. It is also a very special country, including where the modern bungee jumping was invented. Book your winter wine tour now!

It is also high time to think about a wine tour next spring and autumn. See more details below.

If you are going on a wine tour, why not choose to travel with the wine experts and wine tour specialist? To be sure to get the best experience in the wine region!

Enjoy the Brief!

Britt & Per

PS: Recommend to your friends to read the Brief !

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What’s on at BKWine Tours


  • Bordeaux, September 30 – October 4, 2020

For more information please contact us on email or on phone (we’re on French time), or go to our wine travel site on!

We also make custom designed wine tours – on-demand tours for you and a group of friends, for your company (maybe to scout new winegrowers?), for a special event… We can combine winery visits and wine touring with other activities: gastronomic workshops, visit to an oyster farm, truffles hunting, cheese making, and more. More info on the custom designed and bespoke BKWine wine tours and travel here!

Read our book(s)

We have written several wine books, nine at the last count. One of them has been translated to English; the others are (so far) only available in Swedish. This is the one that is available in English: Biodynamic, Organic and Natural Winemaking, Sustainable Viticulture and Viniculture

All our books are on wine, but on different subjects: wines of the Languedoc, wine growing and wine making, the wines of France, Tuscany, Bordeaux, Piedmont, Burgundy, Champagne. Several have won prestigeous prizes and awards. Read more on our wine books.

This is just the introduction to the latest issue of the Brief. Subscribe to the BKWine Brief and you will get the whole edition in your mailbox next month.

This post is also available in: Swedish


  1. Terroirist: A Daily Wine Blog » Daily Wine News: After the Fires - November 5, 2019

    […] Should we lament that the taste of wines have changed? Britt and Per Karlsson consider the answer. […]

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