Wondering what the bold Zinfandel wine has to offer you?
Zinfandel, affectionately known as Zin in the US, is a red wine adored for its smokey, jammy, exotic spice, and fruit characteristics. The Zinfandel grape also makes a delicious sweet rose wine we now know as White Zinfandel.
Where did this fantastic grape come from? How is Zinfandel wine made, and what exactly is White Zin?
Find out the answers to all these queries (and more) by the end of this article. Plus, we have eight of the best Zinfandel wines for you to check out, and the easiest way to buy them!
In This Article, We Will Cover:
- A Quick Intro to Zinfandel Wine
- Where is Zinfandel Grown?
- 8 Fun Facts About Zinfandel
- Viticulture And Winemaking
- What Is White Zinfandel?
- Taste And Flavor Profile
- Zinfandel Food Pairings
- 8 Of The Best Zinfandels To Buy In 2021
- 1995 Turley Wine Cellars Hayne Vineyard Zinfandel, Napa Valley, USA
- 2018 Martinelli Jackass Hill Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, USA
- 2016 Martinelli Jackass Vineyard Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, USA
- 1997 Turley Wine Cellars Moore Earthquake Vineyard Zinfandel, Napa Valley, USA
- 2016 Williams Selyem Papera Vineyard Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, USA
- 2017 Vineyard 29 Aida Estate Zinfandel, Napa Valley, USA
- 2017 Williams Selyem Bacigalupi Vineyard Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, USA
- 2016 Chase Cellars Hayne Vineyard Reserve Zinfandel, St Helena, USA
- Does Zinfandel Wine Age Well?
- Buy And Store Zinfandel and Other Wines Perfectly Through Vinovest
- Get Your Zin And Other Exceptional Wines!
Grab your glass of red, and let’s get started.
A Quick Intro to Zinfandel Wine
Zinfandel is a black grape that produces spicy red wines, which used to be favored by miners in America during the 1800s Gold Rush era. It’s one of the four most planted grapes in California, alongside Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon.
So, what has it’s journey been like?
A Brief History of Zinfandel
Zinfandel was long hailed as “America’s vine and wine.”
But, this changed when Austin Goheen, a professor from the University of California, Davis, visited Italy in 1967. He noticed that Zinfandel wine grapes were almost identical to the Primitivo grape from Southern Italy, and he decided to look into it.
After 30 years of research, Carole Meredith from UC Davis confirmed that Zinfandel is identical to Italy’s Primitivo.
Further DNA testing proved that the Zinfandel grape is also identical to the Croatian grape variety - Tribidrag (or Crljenak Kaštelanski.)
Today, the grape goes by various names in Italy, Macedonia, Croatia and other countries. Zinfandel synonyms include Primitivo di Gioia, Primitivo di Manduria, Kratošija, Morellone, Pribidrag, Primaticcio, Primativo, Trebidrag, Uva di Corato, Zagarese.
Where is Zinfandel Grown?
Even though the Zinfandel vine needs a lot of attention, it is surprisingly hardy and productive.
Today the Central Valley of California - particularly Amador County, the Sierra Foothills, and Russian River Valley - are home to some of the biggest Zinfandel vineyards. Most of the vines in these Californian regions date back to the Gold Rush era. An old vine Zinfandel is typically lower in alcohol and has spicier tones.
Many believe that the best Zinfandels come from Dry Creek Valley of Sonoma County. The warm days and cool nights in Dry Creek Valley are perfect for this fussy grape. It’s also home to some fantastic Zinfandel producers like Ridge Vineyards and Carlisle Winery.
Outside the United States, there are some large Primitivo plantations in Puglia (Italy) and smaller-scale production in Croatia, South Africa, France, Paso Robles, Australia, and New Zealand.
8 Fun Facts About Zinfandel
- The Italian name for Zinfandel or “Primitivo” comes from a Latin word that means “early ripener” or “first to open”.
- Old vine Zinfandels are made from vines over 50 years old.
- In 2000 it was discovered that the Zinfandel / Primitivo grape is one parent of Plavac Mali.
- Zinfandel grapes are known for uneven ripening. Some bunches are left on Zinfandel vines to ripen fully - which accounts for the higher sugar content.
- The grape is small and thin-skinned, which results in higher tannin levels.
- It is a fantastic blending partner for other grape varieties, including Carignan, Grenache, Syrah, and Petite Sirah.
- The third Wednesday of November is National Zinfandel Day in the US.
- Zinfandel is the only grape variety in the world that has a festival dedicated to it. It is organized by Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (ZAP), US and is called the Zinfandel Festival.
Also read:Ever wondered How Many Calories Were In Your Favorite Red Wine?
Zinfandel Viticulture And Winemaking
Zinfandel is known to reflect the winemaker’s style and its terroir. Let’s look at a few interesting aspects of Zinfandel cultivation and winemaking.
- Climate: The vines of Zinfandel grapes are vigorous and grow best in warmer climates. In years of excellent weather, winemakers harvest the grape clusters later and produce delicious dessert wine - known as a “late harvest” Zin.
- Grape ripening and harvesting: A single grape cluster can have both over-ripe grapes and unripened grapes - some even in a raisin-like form.
Some winemakers vinify the bunches with their varying ripeness levels, while others handpick the single ripened grapes over several weeks. This laborious approach makes some Zinfandel wine bottles expensive.
Red Zinfandel is usually harvested at 23°Bx (degrees Brix or the sugar content), which allows the strawberry notes to develop. On the other hand, the grapes for White Zin are harvested earlier when the grape’s varietal characteristics still need to develop. (We’ll tell you more about White Zin in a bit.)
- Winemaking: Red Zinfandel has sometimes been called too “hot” due to it’s high alcohol content. There have been advances in winemaking techniques (reverse osmosis and spinning cones) to make it more approachable.
However, some producers, like Ravenswood winery, feel that these techniques remove important terroir characteristics from the wine and think that Zinfandel should be accepted as is.
The wine’s flavor depends on the length of fermentation and maceration period, the level of oak aging, and the sugar content of the grapes.
Read more: Here’s how to estimate How Many Glasses Were In A Bottle Of Wine.
Let’s take a closer look at White Zinfandel before we get into the regions.
What Is White Zinfandel?
White Zinfandel isn’t a white wine - it is a rose!
During the 1970s, Bob Trinchero and the winemakers from Sutter Home were trying to create a more intense Zinfandel. To do so, they skimmed off 500 gallons of liquid that had been soaking with the red grape skins for a few days.
Those 500 gallons became a blush wine - it was a dry wine with a pink color. They decided to sell it as White Zinfandel in case consumers didn’t respond well to Rose.
Although it sold well for the first few years, it only really became a household favorite after experiencing a “stuck fermentation.” The yeast “died” before converting the sugar content into alcohol (leaving about 2% residual sugar.)
The result is the sweet White Zinfandel or White Zin, an easy-drinking wine, which is among the first wine bottles that beginner drinkers love to try! It has impressive aromas of strawberry, raspberry, rich citrus, and cherry.
Also read:Looking for another sweet wine with fruit flavors? Pick up the Best Moscato Wines from this ultimate guide!
Taste And Flavor Profile of Zinfandel Wine
A typical bottle of red Zinfandel has aromas of black pepper and baking spice.
More specifically, the wines from cooler regions have aromas of juicy red berries (strawberries, cranberry, and raspberry.) The warmer region wines have aromas of black fruits.
On the palate, you can expect a full-bodied wine with a high ABV (14% or more.) Higher quality Zinfandels have higher tannin levels.
How to Serve Zinfandel Wine
Decant your red Zinfandel for at least an hour for the most balanced flavor and serve in a red wine glass at 60-68 degrees Fahrenheit (15.5 - 20 degree Celsius.)
If you have a White Zin on the menu, you can serve this chilled if desired in a standard white wine glass. No decanting is necessary.
Zinfandel Food Pairings
Red Zin pairs perfectly with most grilled meats - turkey beef, lamb, poultry, and game. It is the perfect red wine to pop open at a weekend BBQ.
If you want to have a cheese and wine event and bring out Red Zin, grab the hard, flavorful cheese such as cheddar or manchego. And if you have a sweet tooth, a glass of Zinfandel pairs wonderfully with some dark chocolate cake!
8 Of The Best Zinfandels To Buy In 2021
Here’s a handpicked list of Zins you’ve got to buy for drinking or for storing in your cellar.
1. 1995 Turley Wine Cellars Hayne Vineyard Zinfandel, Napa Valley, USA
This wine represents the essence of Zinfandel. It has a dark purple color, tantalizing fruit concentration and concentration levels. All of this is perfectly balanced and still has room for an amazingly long finish. When it comes to flavor, this wine offers notes of blackberries, black raspberries, cherry-liqueur-like notes.
Price of 1995 Turley Wine Cellars Hayne Vineyard Zinfandel, Napa Valley, USA $347
2. 2018 Martinelli Jackass Hill Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, USA
This intense red Zin has aromas of pine, leather, licorice, dried herbs, and spice. It is a medium to full-bodied wine with a fresh and super spicy palate and has a fantastic finish with a touch of warmth.
Price of 2018 Martinelli Jackass Hill Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, USA $227
3. 2016 Martinelli Jackass Vineyard Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, USA
The 2016 vintage from the Martinelli family Zinfandel vineyard has terrific notes of black cherry, coffee, and stone fruit on the nose. On the palate, you get to enjoy layered flavors of black plum, baking spices, and blackberries with every sip.
Price of 2016 Martinelli Jackass Vineyard Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, USA $148
4. 1997 Turley Wine Cellars Moore Earthquake Vineyard Zinfandel, Napa Valley, USA
This California wine is produced from the old vine region and exceeds all expectations. It has the entire spectrum of red fruit and dark fruit in its bouquet. The concentration and intensity of this gorgeous jammy red wine easily hide its 17.1% ABV.
Price of 1997 Turley Wine Cellars Moore Earthquake Vineyard Zinfandel, Napa Valley, USA $129
5. 2016 Williams Selyem Papera Vineyard Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, USA
This gorgeous Zin from the Sonoma region is packed with wild flavors of cassis, espresso, black licorice, and raspberry. The velvety tannins complement the jammy fruit that leads to a long finish that has mouth-watering acidity.
Price of 2016 Williams Selyem Papera Vineyard Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, USA $117
6. 2017 Vineyard 29 Aida Estate Zinfandel, Napa Valley, USA
This full-bodied California Zinfandel has expressive aromas of raspberry preserves, brambly blackberry, and white flowers. You will experience notes of blue and black fruits on the palate, which are backed by tone of warm baking spices, intense earth, and tobacco.
Price of 2017 Vineyard 29 Aida Estate Zinfandel, Napa Valley, USA $99
7. 2017 Williams Selyem Bacigalupi Vineyard Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, USA
This divine red Zin opens up with a layered bouquet of purple flowers, citrus, and wood spices. On the palate, it has flavors of black fruit, plum, and raspberry. It has an excellent tannic structure that adds depth and has an elegant finish.
Price of 2017 Williams Selyem Bacigalupi Vineyard Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, USA $99
8. 2016 Chase Cellars Hayne Vineyard Reserve Zinfandel, St Helena, USA
This full-bodied, rich, and ripe Zinfandel has a gorgeous deep garnet-purple color. You will be amazed at a bouquet of crushed plums, blackberries, and hints of baking spices, mocha, and violets. On the palate, it keeps giving - with notes of fresh black fruits, velvety finish, and a long finish with hints of black pepper.
Price of 2016 Chase Cellars Hayne Vineyard Reserve Zinfandel, St Helena, USA $94
Also read: Discover the Best Way To Build A Wine Cellar in your home to preserve your wine collection!
Does Zinfandel Wine Age Well?
Zinfandel isn’t known to be an age-worthy wine and is often consumed within five years of bottling. Some wine enthusiasts claim the opposite as well.
The truth is that a Zin doesn’t fall apart after 10 or 15 years, but it doesn’t improve with age. The berry-like flavor tends to fade with time, and soon a Zinfandel starts to resemble a Cabernet Sauvignon in a few select wines.
However, a tasting held at the Lodi Winery in California found that their Zins over 34 years old aged quite well and still had their structure, flavors, and acidity. At this tasting, sommeliers also had the chance to try the red Zinfandel wine that still had pumpkin spices and caramelized berry qualities after 19 years.
To make an age-worthy Zinfandel, the winemaker needs to stick to a more balanced, restrained, and “natural” style, to let the wine evolve.
So how will you know if you are buying an age-worthy wine or a Zin that should be enjoyed in its youth?
When you invest in wines with Vinovest, you get the guidance of their Master Sommeliers before purchasing any wine.
Let’s see how this works.
Buy And Store Zinfandel and Other Wines Perfectly Through Vinovest
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Get Your Zin And Other Exceptional Wines!
Zinfandel can be the perfect red wine for a fun family BBQ or for a romantic date. And depending on the winemaker’s intentions, it might be an excellent wine for the cellar as well.
Meanwhile, if you want to invest in more investment-grade wine, you can easily build your wine collection with Vinovest.
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