Probably the most famous wine buff of all, Oz Clarke, describes Zinfandel as “the heart and soul of American winemaking” and that the American winemaking story can told by talking about this grape alone.
For as long as anyone can remember, the Zinfandel grape has been thought to have originated from southern Italy and is also a grape called Primitivo. It was only in 2001 that by doing research and DNA profiling in both the University of California at Davis and Croatia that it was discovered that Zinfandel is identical to Crljenak, a Croatian variety. It’s thought when even more research is carried out that the first plants may have come from either Albania or Greece.
Zinfandel then found its way to the West Coast of America in the mid-19th century along with the Gold Rush. Luckily it survived the Prohibition era in a very enterprising way; by calling itself sacramental wine
Although it’s a highly popular wine, is widely grown, full of character and flavor and is fairly affordable for everyday drinking, it doesn’t seem to be popular with the wine snobs who seem to prefer Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.
Despite the fact Zinfandel has been grown in California for over a hundred years, many vineyard owners were actually contemplating getting rid of these grapes. Luckily white Zinfandel rose in popularity I the mid-’80s so instead of getting rid of these vines, they actually planted more. Over a 10 year period the number of Zinfandel vines doubled making it an icon of Californian wine.
You will find that Zinfandel is grown thought California and it appears to thrive in a climate which experiences hot days combined with cool nights. They can also adapt to a wide range of soil conditions and often even produce a second yield. The major problem with the grape however is that it tends to ripen unevenly. The risk is that the producer may harvest too soon and end up with unripe grapes. However they might also harvest too late and end up with grapes which are starting to turn into raisins.
Zinfandel is now also being grown in Texas by Zin Valle Vineyards. The vineyard was started in August 2000 and 850 Zinfandel plants were planted that came from California. The vineyard was started by Mr. Poulos who read how Texan wine was of poor quality so he felt the urge to prove people wrong. The project proved such as success that in 2003 they started a second vineyard.
Once the grape has been turned into the wine, they quite often are matured in American oak giving them an almost vanilla taste. Zinfandel can be quite an exciting grape as it can take on various flavours including light, sweet berries or even very a robust and oak taste. The finest quality Zinfandel wines can even be laid down to mature.
This is a blush wine which is produced from grapes which have been picked early. Because Zinfandel has red skins, these need to be removed just after the grapes have been crushed and fermented. The result is a very pale pink and they also have less alcohol than regular Zinfandel.
White Zinfandel also works great as a starter wine because it’s very light and refreshing but has a sweetness to it. The price of a bottle of Zinfandel is very affordable so is it’s well worth buying a bottle if you have never tasted it before and want to try something different. Because of its fruitiness, it’s an ideal choice for those summer picnics and barbeques. Just make sure you serve it cool for the best possible taste.
This wine can be very fruity and light so is ideal if you are a fan of wines such as the French Beaujolais. Strangely enough, they can also be turned into a big, high alcohol wine much like Port. It’s also recommended that you serve red Zinfandel at 65F which is actually somewhere between room and fridge temperature. Although most people agree that it’s best to drink red Zinfandel’s within a few years, you can find some very good aged wines. However, it should be noted that the taste can become much more mellow with age. It really depends on what sort of flavour you like.
Although Zinfandel may not be as popular as Chardonnay or Shiraz it is certainly a wine which you should try as you may just find yourself hooked. It is a very versatile grape and can be enjoyed by both white and red wine drinkers.