Parents & Origin: Croatian grapes Crljenak Kaštelanski and Tribidrag, as well as the Primitivo variety traditionally grown in Apulia Grape: Black-skinned wine grape Flavors: Raspberry, Black Cherry, Blackberry, Blueberry, Black Currant, Black Plum, Raisin, Fig, Apricot, Cranberry Notable Regions: California, US and Puglia, Italy Sweetness: Medium to Medium-High Body: Bold Tannins: Medium to Medium-High Acidity: Medium to Medium-High ABV: 13.5-17%
The History of Zinfandel
Domestication of Vitis vinifera grape occurred before winemaking was discovered! After the vine was tamed in 6000 BCE in the Caucasus region, the grapes spread to the Mediterranean and notably Croatia. This movement subsequently built the wine industry in the 19th century. The Italians first called Zinfandel “Primitivo” to describe the grape’s tendency to ripen earlier than others and first documented its relevance in the 1870s. The first shipment of Zinfandel to the United States was in 1797 from the Imperial Nursery in Vienna, Austria, originally from Croatia. In the 1850s, nurserymen joined the Gold Rush and took off to California with Zinfandel in hand. The prominence of Zinfandel in California and the world has manifested ever since.
Interesting Fact: By the middle of the 20th century, the origins of California Zinfandel had been forgotten due to Prohibition. The fabulous wine was rediscovered in the 1990s as blush wine grew in popularity.
Zinfandel Food Pairings
Zinfandel is an especially bold wine compared to other Reds. Every bottle has unique spicy notes, so pairing your favorite Zinfandel with its parallel spice is the way to go.
The Best Zinfandel Food Pairings
Make sure to try spicy foods with your Zinfandel, ranging from tangy barbecue to curry. Lighter meats are also a treat, such as quail and pork. Some beautiful herbs that bring out the Zinfandel flavor are ginger, garlic, rosemary, curry, turmeric, cayenne, clove, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla, cocoa, black pepper, coriander, fennel, and saffron. Opposite to the lighter meats is hard and richly flavored cheeses, including manchego and cheddar. Pungent and hearty vegetables are also excellent pairings, ones as roasted tomatoes, red peppers, caramelized onions, and roasted squash.
Food Pairings to Avoid with Zinfandel
Since Zinfandel is bolder than your average red wine, you should not pair it with extremely sweet foods. Desserts can be overwhelming and overly sugar-dosed, which flattens the Zinfandel. Oily fish can also turn off the classic Zinfandel.
Zinfandel’s thin-skinned grapes thrive in warm climates but not too hot since they are prone to shrivel. They grow in large bunches that are extremely close-knit, which causes them to have bunch rot frequently. The grapes contain high sugar because of the vine's early ripening period. The longer they bathe in the sun, the more likely they will become a dessert wine grape. Many Zinfandels rack up the price since the grapes ripen unevenly in the bunch, causing a more laborious process in cultivating them than other varietals.
Every Red Zinfandel, no matter how “jammy,” has a sweet fruity quality with a finish of spice and tobacco. The wine is also light in color, lighter than Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Since the Red Zinfandel has a very high alcohol content, its texture is oily, and it has a very bold body. Its moderate tannins and high acidity also contribute to its boldness.
Red Zinfandel in a Nutshell
Zinfandel has been through a tumultuous journey to popularity and establishment as one of the oldest vines ever to be tamed into wine. California winemakers flocked to the easy grape to create an empire of bold wines, ranging from Red to White and low to high alcohol content. The Red Zinfandel’s smokey and bold taste has impressed wine enthusiasts since 6000 BCE. Whether you enjoy your bottle with a spicy dish or rich cheese, the Zinfandel will excite you every time.