Taste test identifies 13.6% alcohol as ideal for Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon study finds consumers prefer intermediate- to later-picked fruit.

While there is a groundswell for lower-alcohol wines, when it comes to the taste test, reds with alcohol levels above 13 percent win the day.

Consumers preferred Cabernet Sauvignon wines from grapes picked later rather than earlier, in a study published by journal Food Chemistry.

A series of five Cabernets from a South Australian vineyard harvested between one and four weeks apart with alcohols ranging from 11.8 to 15.5 percent were given to more than 100 consumers. It turns out that “optimal ripeness,” a phrase oft-used by winemakers to justify their picking decision should be reconsidered. We should be asking: what is the optimal ripeness for consumers?

The answer, according to the study, is 13.6 percent. The earliest-picked wines, coming in at 11.8 percent and 12.9 percent, were the least liked by consumers. Those with “intermediate alcohol levels” were the most liked.

The results showed that wines made from earlier-picked fruit displayed more red fruit and green flavors. The later-picked wines showed a deeper purple color and were rated more highly for dark fruit flavors and increased viscosity.

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