Zinfandel: The Red and White Wine


Credit: David McSpadden

Zinfandel grapes are planted about ten percent of California vineyards, a variety also known as Primitivo. This black-skinned grape traces its origins to those grown in Croatia and Italy, but this variety has flourished in the United States more than anywhere else in the world.

Total Wine’s Guide to Zinfandel Wines says, “Uniquely American, this exuberant red wine is capable of producing top quality red wines that can rival Cabernet Sauvignon. It offers an array of flavors including black and red fruit, spice, pepper, tar, licorice and wood.Zinfandel [ZIN-fan-dell] is produced in three distinct styles. The first is the fresh and fruity, easy-drinking style that offers charm and balance with light tannins, followed by the medium-bodied, fuller flavored Zinfandels with noticeable spiciness and ripe tannins. This is followed by the big, concentrated and powerful style with intense fruit and unbelievable richness. Zinfandel is exclusively grown in California and is the most widely planted red grape variety…”

Red and White Zinfandel

One of the best things about this wine is that its flavors vary depending on where the grapes are grown and how ripe they are when they are picked. If you like wine with the distinctive flavors of raspberry, pick a bottle produced by vineyards in cooler areas. If you like the more exotic traces of pepper and anise, look for Zinfandel produced in warmer zones.

Red wine is the usual product or the Primitivo grapes, but an interesting blush-style wine is also produced from it. In the United States, this blush-style wine, often called white Zinfandel, is about 500 percent more saleable than the red one.

In its article, Total Wine and More identifies three different red Zinfandel styles: “Fresh Fruit/Easy Drinking – Filled with bright, fresh fruit and easy drinking; intense Fruit/Ripe Tannins – Great fruit flavors and medium bodied with detectable tannins; and highly Concentrated Fruit/Firm Tannins – Full-bodied and dense with loads of fruit flavors and ample tannins…”

White Zinfandel currently ranks as the third most popular varietal in the United States. It is actually a dry to sweet light pink wine, and it usually has low alcohol content. Some taste almost like punch, making it quite acceptable to people who are not wine drinkers.

Pairing Zinfandel with Food

The Zinfandel Food Pairing Guide says that it goes very well with meat. This includes pork ribs, beef, leg of lamb, Italian sausage, venison, and brisket. If you are having poultry as your main dish, it will do just fine. A glass of lighter Zin is perfect with quail, chicken, pheasant, and duck. Best of all, it goes very well with turkey, so you might want to try serving it on Thanksgiving.

A robust Zin will pair very well with tomato-based pasta dishes, and a lighter Zin will serve you well for cream based pastas. Zin also goes well with seafood and fish dishes such as grilled tuna, bouillabaisse, and cioppino – a tomato-based seafood stew.

Chili, pizza, and foods heavily seasoned with pepper, thyme, bay leaf and fennel all meet their match in this kind of wine.  Cheeses such as Parmesan, Gouda, aged Cheddar, and Asiago will all settle well with a Zinfandel of your choice.

Zinfandel to the Rescue

Wine Folly’s Guide to Zinfandel Wine promises that difficult-to-pair foods will find a perfect match with Zin. “Think curry spice. Since Zinfandel leans on the sweeter side of red wine, it’s a great pairing partner with spiced barbecue dishes and curry. Pro tip: Pick out the spices you taste in the wine and add them to your sauce…

“Pork tonkatsu is a Japanese dish served with a richly spiced curry sauce. The spicing and savory-sweet quality of this dish make it a perfect wine pairing partner with Zinfandel…”

Today, it is identified by many as an American product, and its popularity has steadily risen over the years. Because of its wide range of styles and its pairing flexibility, chances are this American wine could become everyone’s favorite in the future.

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