In Praise of Zinfandel

     Is there any winegrape that is more versatile than the variety that California claims as its own – Zinfandel?


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     Simply stated, no other grape is used to make as many different styles of wine as can (and does!) Zinfandel.

     Consider the smorgasbord of possibilities…

     * Dry, red wine – Zinfandel is a full-bodied, jammy, spicy wine that matches well with summer barbecue fare, Asian cuisine and various smoked meats.

     * Dry or off-dry rose-style wine – In recent years, more and more vintners have used Zinfandel grapes to make thirst-quenching rose wines: wines that fall somewhere between red and white on the vinous color spectrum. Even wine snobs agree that such wines, especially when chilled, make refreshing hot weather quaffers. They also match amazingly well with a wide spectrum of food, from simple party fare like hot dogs and hamburgers to more sophisticated Mediterranean cuisine.

     * Sweet blush wine – White Zinfandel and Chardonnay run a neck-and-neck race year after year in bar/lounge popularity contests. Pioneered by California’s Sutter Home Winery, White Zin endures askance glances from wine snobs, yet inarguably has introduced millions of people to the world of fine wines – people who never would have ventured beyond Bartles and Jaymes otherwise.

     * Sweet dessert wine – Late Harvest Zinfandel is a lush, almost syrupy wine that sticks to one’s teeth and satisfies one’s sweet tooth. It’s a sumptuous after-dinner sipper.

     * Sweet Port-style wine – Some vintners take the sweetness quotient one step further and use Zinfandel grapes to produce slick, smooth and seductive Port-style bottlings with lush layers of raisiny, dark fruit flavors. (We suggest you throw a couple logs in the fireplace and pour a couple glasses of Zinfandel Port… but we won’t be responsible for what happens next!)

     Zinfandel’s heritage is in dispute. Long thought to be native to California, there was conjecture at one time that it was brought to the Golden State from the East Coast. More recently, DNA fingerprinting has identified it as being almost identical to Italy’s Primitivo grape.

     We may not know where it came from, but there is no denying Zinfandel’s versatility, drinkability or popularity.

Posted in Wine in the Glass
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