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Randy Dunn sounds off

July 25, 2007 |  6:34 pm

Wake up, wine drinkers! Stop buying high-alcohol wines! Demand wines that have less than 14% alcohol levels. That’s the provocative plea Napa Valley winemaker Randy Dunn (Dunn Vineyards) e-mailed to wine writers around the country yesterday.

One of California’s first Cabernet Sauvignon winemakers to develop a cult following, Dunn takes many of those who have followed him into the Cult Cab club to task for making what he deems inferior wines. These high-alcohol fruit bombs are geared to score well in critical tastings (read: pander to Robert Parker) but are a drag to drink with a meal, which is what most people do with the wines they buy.

"It is time for the average wine consumers, as opposed to tasters, to speak up," Dunn proclaims. "The current fad of higher and higher alcohol wines should stop. Most wine drinkers do not really appreciate wines that are 15-16+% alcohol. They are, in fact, hot and very difficult to enjoy with a meal.

"The subtleties of terroir in wines have been melted together in a huge pot called ‘overripe’ or the vogue ‘physiologically mature’ grape. Gone are the individualities of specific regions, replaced by sameness –- high alcohol, raisiny, pruney, flabby wines. Likewise, the descriptor ‘herbaceous’ was often used in a positive sense when describing Cabernets. Now it is the kiss of death."

For consumers heeding his "nothing over 14%" rallying cry, Dunn cautions, be prepared to switch from California wines to French. The high-alcohol-wine syndrome has hit California wineries particularly hard, he laments. His own wines? Though they're really rich and really big, they're only 13%.

-- Corie Brown