Given the current winemaking style of many zinfandels, (i.e. big, ripe extracted fruit with high alcohol levels), we developed the Zinfandel Blow Torch Scale to let you know what kind of alcohol levels you may encounter. This doesn’t mean that a 15% zin is automatically a two blow torch wine or that the wine is not enjoyable. What it does reflect is the noticeable amount of alcohol.
One torch – This is a zinfandel where the alcohol is present but well integrated, it doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb. An example would be a Gary Farrell from the Russian River Valley.
Two torches – A hotter wine, the alcohol is quite noticeable but instead of burning on the way down, it merely “warms the cockles of your heart.” This is where many of today’s high-end zinfandels fall.
Three torches – Avoid these if you have ulcers and don’t exhale near an open flame. Given the level of alcohol in these wines, we do consider them to be unbalanced and flawed. They can still be enjoyed but we would like them a lot more if the alcohol was under better control. It also affects ageability because although fruit may fade over time, alcohol does not go away.