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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%
Dancing Bull, 2005 Zinfandel, 13.9%
Clos Du Bois, 2004 Zinfandel,
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…)