A couple of weeks ago I got the Spec's monthly or quarterly wine mag in the mail. In it, there was an article by someone I've never heard of about Zinfandel. One of the premises of the article was that they're too big, too full, too ripe, and too high in alcohol. The writer recommended that winemakers try to throttle back, and make them with less body, less ripeness, and more acidity so they'd be more "food friendly."
WHAT A LOAD OF IGNORANT CRAP.
Zinfandel is a wine that naturally ripens at higher sugar levels than other varietals. So guess what? When it's fermented, turning the sugar into alcohol, there's more alcohol and therefore more body. It's been my experience that it's hard to find it hard to find a Zinfandel that tastes like Zinfandel at lower than 14% alcohol. The lower alcohol Zins I've had tend to have less varietal character, because (all other variables being equal) they're picked earlier when they're less ripe. To try to produce a lower alcohol Zin than nature wants to give you is like trying to make Anna Nicole Smith or Queen Latifah look like Gwynneth Paltrow. It doesn't work, and the world becomes less interesting as a result.
And it's a false premise that big Zins don't go with food. Yeah, maybe if you're eating seared tuna, some fancy pants veal or chicken breast dish, or some restaurant pasta dish finished with the now ubiquitous "touch of cream," then a big fleshy Zin isn't the way to go. But I cook lots of stuff like braised lamb shanks, pasta with long simmered meat sauces, oxtail Roman style, steak grilled over mesquite, winey pot roasts and stews. With big boldly-flavored food like that, it's hard for me NOT to reach for a big, ripe Zin when I go to the wine closet.
If the writer wants lower alcohol, more restrained Zins, he or she can get some by being selective about what regions to look for. For example, I'm not a big fan of Zins from the cooler Russian River Valley, and they aren't usually as ripe as I 'd like and they tend to have higher acids. Some wineries are known for their more restrained style of Zins, too, like Storybook Mountain or Quivira.
If they aren't "restained" enough for for the writer of this ridiculous article, then my advice would be to drink a damn Cabernet or Merlot. But don't go trying to make my hound dog (we actually have a hound dog mutt named Zinny) into a miniature poodle.