High alcohol 2 of 2

More about wine alcohol wars.

On one side of tasting room: critics who favor more delicate styles; 12.5 percent alcohol or less, more acidity, more food-friendly.

On the other side: those who favor higher alcohol fruit bombs, worshipers at shrine of Robert Parker.

This column’s opinion: why fight? What is right for you depends on how you enjoy wine and circumstances when you drink.

If you typically enjoy wine with food, go with lower alcohol, higher acidity, less bouffant bottlings. They pair with food instead of overpowering it. Acidic wines cleanse your palate, allowing you to appreciate stages of a meal. Acidity pairs with salty foods and counterbalances oily or fatty foods. Yum.

Today, however, more than half of wine drinking does not happen during a meal. It is drunk as a cocktail beverage consumed without food or with hors d’oeuvres.

In that case, buxom, high-alcohol, fruit-forward-floozies make perfect sense. They may not play well with food, but that’s not why you brought them to the party.

Such big wines—some syrah and zinfandel creations soar past 16 percent alcohol—surely lack acidity and their fruitiness and alcohol sweetness mean they demand to be center of attention. Don’t pair them with pan-sautéed trout in a delicate lemon-butter sauce.

In the wine world, the two sides enjoy firing broadsides at each other. Let them fulminate. For the rest of us, pick one style to pair with fare, the other for a party pour.


• Torbreck Woodcutter’s Shiraz. Fruity, powerful, cherries, black fruits, medium tannins. 14.5% alcohol. Australia. $20

• Mettler Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2008. Fruit forward; big oak, vivid flavors, nice tannins. Classic over-the-top Cal cab. 15.3% alcohol. $25

• Cru Pinot Noir Appellation Series Santa Maria Valley. Opulent, cherries, cranberries, toasty oak. 14.5% alcohol. $35

• Gamba Russian River Valley Zinfandel. Deep ruby color, blueberries, raspberries, full bodied; Parker favorite. 16.4% alcohol. $42