Friday, July 06, 2007

Can't find wine? Try looking...

“…most of the world’s red wines have grown fatter, softer and ought to now be referred to as the couch potatoes of the wine world.”

Dan Berger 6/29/2007

Repeatedly over the last few years wine writers have railed against the “high alcohol fruit bombs”…a term which could use a bit better definition…

Last Friday, Dan Berger penned an article on “Red Wine and Fish”, where he revisits some food & wine suggestions he made a few decades ago – and while I don’t find problems with most of it, I do take exception to one point: wines with alcohol levels above 15% are NOT all that we are being offered these days…

As always, Dan’s suggestions are still worthy of consideration – take his “…fat of the lamb needs the tartness of the wine, and the assertive flavors of the dish need the fruit intensity of the wine…” when making a recommendation about why a Zinfandel would be appropriate for a leg of lamb seasoned with garlic & rosemary is still excellent advice.

EXCEPT…he then finished his paragraph with “[t]oday, such a wine is hard to find”

But is it?

Let’s take Zinfandel as an example since it seems to be the most targeted varietal when people take aim at “high alcohol fruit bombs”, and Dan brings it up as well…

To prove my point, I had a pal check out his local Safeway store to see what Zins he could find below 14% alcohol (I told him I wanted Zins below 14%, to make it a bit harder…), spending no more than 10 minutes on the mission. I figured that would be a fairly representative result & applicable to most consumers’ experiences as it didn’t involve a wine or spirits specialty store.

“Well then,” you might say, “what did he find?”
Plenty! With just that quick look there were 15 wines, 13 of which were @ 13.5% alcohol:

Ravenswood, 2005 Zinfandel, 13.5%

Fetzer, 2005 Zinfandel, 13.5%

Smoking Loon, 2005 Zinfandel, 13.5%

Blackstone, 2005 Zinfandel, 13.5%

BV Coastal, 2004 Zinfandel, 13.5%

Barefoot, Non-vintage Zinfandel, 13.5%

Sutter Home, 2005 Zinfandel (red, not white), 13.5%

Renwood, 2004 Zinfandel, 13.5%

Peachy Canyon, 2005 Zinfandel, 13.9%

Dancing Bull, 2005 Zinfandel, 13.9%

Sterling, 2005 Zinfandel, Vintner’s Collection, 13.5%

Clos Du Bois, 2004 Zinfandel, North Coast, 13.5%

Screw Kappa Napa, 2003 Zinfandel, Vintner’s Collection, 13.5%

Mondavi, 2005 Zinfandel, 13.5%

Those wines above represent about 40% of the offerings of Zin, and while Dan might claim victory since in the “old days” better than 95% of the offerings would be under 14%, I still say it’s not that hard for someone to find a Zin below 14%.

Perhaps Dan doesn’t shop stores where any of these wines are available?

Doubtful…these blends are all fairly large bottlings, and shouldn’t be too hard to find – especially for someone experienced like Dan, who’s in many wine sections, in many different stores.

(The parallel idea to his “fruit bomb” point is that the wines lack acid, which I would state is probably incorrect when looking at the wines on this list from cooler areas, where the acid levels remain higher…)


Anonymous Mark said...

I think we're getting a bit too hung up on the numbers rather than the wines (and after all, those percentages listed on the labels may not be entirely accurate).
The problem with too many zins is that the alcohol is NOTICEABLE. It sticks out, and that knocks the wine out of balance, at least for my taste. And it's especially true this time of year, when red wines are often served a few degrees (or more) warmer than they ought to be.

July 09, 2007 4:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How many of the wines listed in the 13.5% category have been spooferized taking out "x"% of alcohol to make it 13.5... mmm spooferized wine...

July 10, 2007 7:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

More importantly...when people write about zin, they aren't usually talking about garbage like Fetzer, Sutter Home, Smoking Loon, etc.

They are talking about GOOD zin...which does seem to creep higher and higher on the abv scale, no?

July 12, 2007 8:29 AM  
Blogger St. Vini said...

Good point, and that's where I hoped Dan would've kept it - but alas, no...
Personally, I think the point of over-ripeness would've been the better attack, as there are many wines with higher alc's which don't seen to be imbalanced.

I can't speak to whether all of these wines have been sent thru the spinning cone to drop the alcohol...though I can say that I know of two which have been...but that's not his point is it?

Mr Berger is railing against "high alcohol fruit bomb" zins, period.

His point about over ripened fruit (into the prune & raisin stages) is acceptable, though one should be prepared to find a few of those notes in any given zin due to the uneven ripening of that varietal.

As for the "garbage" broadside you let's just soooo pretentious. Many zins are of higher alcohol, but Dan's assertion is that "all that we see" are of that character...


July 13, 2007 5:44 PM  
Blogger zinlover said...

I tasted one of the best zins I have ever had on a recent trip to Healdsburg. 2006 Dark Horse Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, Treborce Vineyards. small production Zin that was absolutely incredible. Any suggestions on other great zins to try? I ordered a case on

May 12, 2008 11:35 AM  

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