It’s also a sweet wine, so even those who don’t drink wine often can enjoy a glass of fruity Zinfandel.
You’ve probably heard of Zinfandel and even tried it - but how much do you know about the popular red or Rosè?
Keep reading to learn all about the ins and outs of Zinfandel, including the history, taste, and food pairings.
The History of Zinfandel
Zinfandel is one of the oldest grapes that still makes wine to this day, with evidence suggesting that it was first used to create Zinfandel wine back in 6000 BC.
UC Davis viticulturists conducted research that looked into the history of the grape and the grape’s journey from then to now.
The Primitivo is a dark grape found in Puglia, Southern Italy that produces intense red wine that is high in tannins.
The grape was found to be genetically the same as Zinfandel, which was a revelation as Italian’s weren’t certain that it was one of their varietals.
Croatia also has claims to the Zinfandel grape, with multiple indigenous varieties that were related to Zinfandel. However, most were lost by the end of the 19th century.
In 2001, researchers found nine vines of “Crljenak Kaštelanski” - and once DNA fingerprinting was conducted, they discovered that it had identical DNA structure to California Zinfandel.
Although Zinfandel is often associated with the US - particularly California - the roots in the country have only been traced back to the 1820s.
A plant nursery owner called George Gibbs from Long Island, New York brought cuttings back from Vienna, Austria.
Shortly after this, Zinfandel vines were advertised and sold and quickly became a popular great in the US.
Around the same time, another nursery owner called Frederick Macondray was credited with bringing the Zinfandel vine to California.
What Does Zinfandel Taste Like?
Zinfandel is a delicious wine, and perfect for beginners to the wine scene. The aromas and notes can vary depending on the location of production, but all variations tend to be deep and fruity.
The flavours of red Zinfandel can also vary depending on when the grapes were picked from the vine and the ripeness of the grapes.
Grapes left on the vine longer tend to be sweeter due to a higher amount of natural sugars.
As well as fruity flavours, red Zinfandel can also have spicy aromas - with flavours of black pepper and cinnamon.
Some fruity notes you may notice when sipping a quality Zinfandel may include red and dark berries such as blackberries, raspberries, cherries, strawberries, and cranberries.
You’ll find that when the wine is produced in warmer climates, you’ll notice that the fruits tend to be deeper black.
When the wine is produced in cooler climates, then you’re more likely to taste juicy red berries such as raspberry or strawberry.
The aromas tend to amplify with age, producing secondary and even tertiary aromas.
If the wine has been aged in an oak barrel, then you may notice vanilla or smoky aromas.
However, if the Zinfandel has been aged in a bottle, you may notice earthy aromas such as leather, tobacco, and even mushroom.
If the Zinfandel is made using carbonic maceration (when the grapes are fermented in an environment with lots of carbon dioxide before crushing), then you may even notice sweeter tastes of bubblegum or sweeties.
Some other aromas you may notice can include minerals, flowers, herbs, spices, liquorice, raisins, figs, apricots, and black currants.
Some oaky flavours that may arise after being aged in a barrel include coconut, nutmeg, vanilla, mocha, coffee, cinnamon, tobacco, clove, sawdust, and burnt sugar.
Like many quality reds, Zinfandel is a full-bodied wine high in tannins.
The general rule of thumb is that the lower quality the wine, the lower the level of tannins. However, this will vary from vintner to vintner.
Usually, despite being sweet, you can taste just the right amount of alcohol.
Although different producers will use different processes when fermenting, most Zinfandel is around 14% ABV or higher.
The acidity levels can also vary, but most have medium to medium-high levels of acidity.
Zinfandel Food Pairings
Due to the many flavours found in Zinfandel, you can pair it well with a variety of foods.
If you’re a fan of Turkish or Moroccan food, then you’ll be glad to know that they pair well with Zinfandel due to the cinnamon and spice similarities.
Some spices that can taste great with Zinfandel include curry, cajun, cumin, black pepper, cinnamon, sage, rosemary, black pepper, fennel, and even cocoa and coffee.
Zinfandel can complement the flavours of many types of meat - whether you prefer ribs, lamb, pulled pork or pork chops, salmon, game, and even burgers, Zinfandel is sure to make a great wine pairing.
Wine and cheese always pair well together - and Zinfandel is no exception.
If you want to enjoy Zinfandel with cheese, ensure that the cheese is a rich and bold cheese. For example, cheddar, gouda, and even halloumi can taste delicious with a glass of Zin.
Many vegetables also pair perfectly with Zinfandel - but instead of bland veg, opt for vegetables with flavour.
Eggplant, mushrooms, olives, red peppers, tomatoes, and onions all make great food pairings with Zinfandel.
What About White Zinfandel?
If you’ve tried Zinfandel, you’ve probably heard of white Zinfandel.
This is an off-dry to sweet rosé that was first created back in 1948, by the Sutter Home Family Vineyards vintner Bob Trinchero.
Like many popular wines, white Zinfandel was created purely on accident - an error in the fermentation process.
White Zinfandel is made from the Zinfandel grape, which usually produces a bold and spicy red.
However, with white Zinfandel, the wine is often light pink and tastes very sweet.
White Zinfandel is grown in fertile areas with warm climates, and the vines tend to be rather large and produce many grapes.
Many wine enthusiasts aren’t big fans of white Zinfandel - but as well as tasting great, the white variation of the wine saved red Zinfandel from going extinct.