Poll: banning high alcohol wines

Darrell Corti has banned the sale of high alcohol wines in his food and wine emporium in Sacramento, CA according to a story on AppellationAmerica.com. Corti says:

At our store, after a tasting on the 29th of March, I put on top of the Zinfandel section, “This is the last tasting Corti Brothers will do for over 14.5 percent Zinfandels. These wines will no longer be sold at Corti Brothers. There will be no exceptions…They (high alcohol wines) make you very tired. My idea of a really good bottle of wine is that two people finish the bottle and wish there was just a little bit more. Some of these wines with high levels of alcohol — you can’t finish the bottle. You don’t want to finish the bottle.”

What do you say? Is Corti a hero or a villain?

poll now closed

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16 Responses to “Poll: banning high alcohol wines”

  1. […] Cabernet, says “higher alcohol wines should stop.” I guess we know how he would vote in the poll![Appellation […]

  2. No mediocrity here – yes, either you’re with us or against us.

    Are you suggesting that high-alc Zin fans like to go Medieval on their foes?

  3. Steve –

    But you said yesterday that I looked like a Bush in that illustration–so why not act like one too? 😉

    Polls are for yay or nay. Post a comment for nuance! Harrumph! (And surely there is room for nuance here–amarone anyone?!?)

  4. Corti should be applauded for taking a stand. As a merchant he knows what his customers want. If his sense is that high alcohol wines are neither to his taste or to those of his patrons, then why waste shelf space with that category of product?

    Has anyone else noticed how difficult it is to find the alcohol level on many bottles these days? Some producers are even resorting to printing the degree level in a print color that is practically off-white. Beware of ‘ghost’ alcohol listings…

  5. You’re right Tyler, f–k the nuance. I’m ridin’ my horse down from Jackass Hill to get that guy!

  6. sorry, that was the booze talking. . .

  7. Ha! No problem. Seems like the booze is talking in the poll right now too as “hero” and “villain” have drawn even!

  8. First, I can’t believe a retailer making a decision like this. Decisions on whether or not to carry a product should be based on consumer demand. I understand that these folks have been in business for some time, so they must be good merchants, I just think this is a mistake to “ban” a product based on a personal bias.

  9. Amarone, indeed.

    From the article:

    There will be no exceptions…
    Some say, “You sell Amarone, which is over 16.5.” Yes, but they’re made to be like that.

    And a Turley zin isn’t made to be like IT is? Ahh, hypocrisy.

    More power to him, as a businessman, to make decisions based on his tastes, and if it works out for him, great. But his logic has some holes in it.

    How’s that for a middle position?

  10. Philippe – I hadn’t noticed that about the bottles. I assume you’re talking about high alc Cali wines?

    AVwineguy – his choice! It has at least gotten his store some free publicity. Other stores “ban” general categories of wine (e.g. you can’t get a Rioja at Italian Wine Merchants) but this has novelty value of driving a stake into the high alc fracture.

    Mark – True enough. I guess he’s just particularly up in arms about Cali wines. No mention of Australia or Spain…

  11. Darrell Corti has just a few conditions on his no wine over 14.5% policy?

    1) He will continue to sell Amarone (can be over 16.5% alcohol) because they are made that way. Which suggests that other winemakers make high alcohol wines by accident! Head scratcher, that one!

    2) He will sell wines above 14.5% if a customer asks for it. Just ask Mike Officer about the call he got from Corti seeking to buy one of his Zinfandels. Carlisle wines are not alcohol shy, and not below 14.5%. The 2003 Sonoma County Zin I had last week was 15.8%!

    3) If he is served a wine above 14.5% and he likes it he may buy it. After all as he said “I made the rule, I can break it.”

    Yes, Darrell Corti has driven a stake into the high alcohol fracture; not actually sure what that means but it sounds graphic. Its just that the fracture seems to shift so much its hard to figure out where he is aiming. A medal for inconsistency. Hanged, drawn and quartered for not providing his customers with the full spectrum of wine options.

  12. Crux of the matter is his “My idea of a really good bottle of wine is …” is of no interest to me.

    What if his opinion is that Italian reds aren’t satisfying? Does he stop selling Italian reds?

    My idea of a really good bottle of wine is one that *I* like and that complimets the food I am eating with it.
    In MY opinion…

  13. Banning wine because of the alcoholic content makes about as much sense as not carrying Chardonnay in your store because you don’t like it. It’s his store and he can do what he wants but I think its a short sighted business decision. The reason he banned anything over 14.5% is that those particular Zinfandels made people too sleepy and they weren’t able to finish a whole bottle.

    Bah humbug. I’ve had many higher alcohol Zinfandels that blow the lesser ones out of the water. I hardly ever go through a bottle of any wine in one day and many of them get better on day two.

    Wine is a subjective product and never is the mantra that the customer is always right ring more true then with this art form. I don’t think a blanket ruling to eliminate any wine should be made, judging each wine individually is far more sensible and reasonable.

    Now if we were talking about white Zinfandel I might have to reconsider my opinion!

  14. Big day for the future of wine in the good ol’ US OF A. In one day the legendary Stag’s Leap is sold and A well known retailer refuses to sell wine over 14.5% alcohol. The winds of Change are- ah blowin’.


  15. Why is there “controversy” over Corti’s decision? He should be able to do what he pleases — it’s his store. If he wants to be inconsistent, bully for him. I’ll take a nice Amarone over a bludgeon of a Zin any day; it isn’t just about the alcohol level. Not at all.

    BTW, I wrote about Randy Dunn’s letter to consumers, asking them to go for lower alcohol. The story first appeared in Appellation America, and I applaud Dunn for this move. Which I’m sure is filling his inbox with nastygrams.

  16. Kudo’s to Corti for a great publicity stunt.

    Several varietals are produced in a late harvest fashion not just Zin. Why not ban those as well? Flavors and tastes are the opinion of the consumer, if someone likes a “hot” or high alcohol content wine then it is their choice. All wine shop proprietors, especially a succesful one like Corti knows this. When he then retracts his standing to carry certain brands, further proof is found in the fact that he is not devout on the decision.

    However he has made a great decision in coming up with this hair brained scheme for it has been picked up by many media sources!


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