Although the exact origins of Zinfandel are not known, there’s absolutely no doubt about its popularity in the United States.
In the U.S., Zinfandel’s historic home is California, with some vineyards that are more than 100 years old still producing wine-quality grapes, even if in minute quantities.
At present, there are more than 32,000 acres of Zinfandel vines planted across the Golden State. That makes Zin the second most popular red grape variety, trailing only Cabernet Sauvignon.
Despite the abundance of Zinfandel, it can be a challenging grape to grow due to uneven berry ripening. But by using focused viticultural techniques, and tapping the numerous old vines growing in several areas, great wines can result.
“Old vines” are loosely defined as those that have been in active use for a minimum of 40 years. These vines tend to yield a smaller crop, so the berries have great intensity and depth of flavor, resulting in similarly intense wines.
Zinfandel has an intrinsic cherry, blackberry and pepper character. It may also have earthy, tar and leather aromas, so the resulting wines cover a wide range of styles.
While White Zinfandel – a sweet, Rose-style wine – introduced the variety to millions, red Zin has emerged as a popular variety in its own right. Complex, with deep color, medium to high tannins, and intense fruit flavor, it allows winemakers to explore the diverse expressions of the grape with amazing results.