Following my recent Californian adventure I have now paid the US East Coast a visit. At least so far as you can call opening a bottle of wine "paying a visit". I had visited the New York region last year though, and on a tour through Long Island discovered one of its vinous gems, Shinn Estate Vineyards. Among the lessons I learned there was that you can make very strong wines that can still feel light - if you get the balance right.
Now, if the warning of the Surgeon General on the label of the Shinn Cabernet has not scared you away, will the fact that it has 15.4% ABV?
I have to say that I consider everything above 13.5% ABV as too much and everything above 14.5% a crime. However, I decided to take Shinn's strongest wine back with me to London after the tasting because I was impressed how drinkable it felt. Will the wine perform similarly under the clinical test regime of the sterile Wine Rambler labs?
The bouquet certainly felt fresh - herbal aromas with a eucalyptus menthol touch are always welcome, but there were also earthy bread and mineral notes, lovely cherries and mocca coffee aromas. With some air the wine reminded me a little of a chocolate cherry cake - with a bit of vegetable spice, paprika and pepper perhaps.
You might now expect me to say a lot about the high alcohol, but I won't. Yes, it is strong and you will notice the alcohol effect, but no, it does not taste boozy or feel too heavy. Instead it is smooth, very easy to drink and highly enjoyable - substance, yes, but also a lot of freshness from the good acidity. Add to that sticky cherry, a bit of coffee and some blackcurrant with a fresh finish with metal mineral flavours and you have a winner.
You can still but the wine from Shinn directly (if you live in a state they ship to, so even Americans may find it hard) and it sells for $41. I am not familiar enough with the price level in the US market to say where it sits in terms of value - with the current exchange rates I would say it is a little more on the expensive side from an EU or British perspective, but taxes etc. make for a difficult direct comparison. Together with an Austrian Grüner Veltliner it is certainly the most balanced high ABV wine we have reviewed here though.