The 2011 vintage adds data to both sides of a longstanding debate: Would California Zinfandel be better if the wines weren't so ripe and jammy? Clearly, the best 2011s offer excellent precision and focus, with vibrant acidity and, yes, slightly lower alcohol levels than usual. But many show little in the way of texture, with the fruit lacking its typical freshness and stuffing, and some wines are downright hard, green and tannic. If nothing else, 2011 proves that ripeness and alcohol level are not the only litmus tests. It's more complicated than that. Wine Spectator's Tim Fish explains.
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