The non-vintage Bramblewood Old Vine Zinfandel ($12 to $16 at big box stores) is a sturdy, fruity Lodi zin, but it is not going to make our favorites list because of a sweet edge that, for us, relegates it to also-ran status. We are writing about it because our aversion to sweetish red table wines, as distinct from certain dessert wines meant to be sipped from a thimble, is hardly universal, as evidenced by the rising popularity of wines like Jam Jar Sweet Shiraz from South Africa.
The wine telegraphs its punch from first sniff, its nose dominated by big black cherry and a little bramble. So far, so good. On the tongue it offers loads of fruit — most notably ripe black cherry, blackberry and bruised plum — accented by a healthy wallop of mocha. At mid palate and through a medium long finish, however, distracting and rather cloying port-like overtones assert themselves, lending a rich, caramelly distraction that put us off the wine but that will be welcomed as long overdue by those with a sweet tooth.
Pair this fruit-forward zin with mushroom cream sauced pasta, lamb, venison or duck. Or have it for dessert.
By Colette and John Bancroft. She is the Times' book editor, and he is a freelance writer specializing in food, wine and travel. For an index and archive of reviews, go to pictograph.com.