Updated: Aug 23, 2021
Over the past decade, I have found that Zinfandel has become one of my favorite domestic grape varietals. It is definitely a United States featured wine. Planted to vine throughout California, Zinfandel has a pretty cool diversity of flavor and texture. Huge fruit is commonplace for Zinfandel, full bodied, spicy, and generally high in sugar and alcohol content. Zinfandel was historically a blending grape for years in California, but in the nineties we started seeing the grape produced as a bold red wine independently fermented. Zinfandel has lot's of sugar, and consequently makes a full bodied red wine. The body and alcohol content after fermentation allows the wine to sustain extended oak ageing to integrate the fruit, and body with more rustic aromas and textures. Bright berry fruit aromas blend with spicy peppery flavors to make a great alternative to Cabernet Sauvignon in California. This is California fruit. Though Zinfandel can be sourced outside of California, especially these days in Washington. Other new world production of note includes South Africa, and Brazil, if you find a Zinfandel from Brazil, please share the producer with me, because I have been told that they have many acres planted, but have yet to see one, in my local community.
Zinfandel came to our country from Italy, in the south the grape called Primitivo is the clone that when planted domestically mutated to the Zinfandel we bottle today. To taste a primitivo, one may not recognize its lineage as the body is leaner, alcohol content is lower, in general, and the ageing process shows a much more rustic finished style. They are great wines though, just much more dark fruit, raisiny sometimes, but very appealing.
I recon I should mention White Zinfandel, a blush wine from California that was hugely popular in the seventies and eighties has less market dominance than it used to. It held the number one white wine category in the United States until Chardonnay took that title in 1994. Most restaurants that you visit today understand that Zinfandel is red wine, and that is the style consumers should anticipate when discussing the grape.
I love to show how climate makes an impact on the Zinfandel product. I like to show a Sonoma County, Napa Valley, Sierra foothills compare and contrast with Zinfandel, the grape develops so uniquely under varying climatic conditions that this makes for an informative and fun class.