Parents & Origin: Croatian grapes Crljenak Kaštelanski and Tribidrag, as well as the Primitivo variety traditionally grown in Apulia
Grape: Black-skinned wine grape
Flavors: Fresh red berry, citrus, and melon aromas with subtle hints of nutmeg and clove
Notable Regions: California
Sweetness: Semi-Dry to Sweet
The History of White Zinfandel
In the year 1972, Bob Trinchero—co-owner and winemaker for Sutter Home Winery—began experimenting with his lauded and admired Amador County Deaver Vineyard Zinfandel.
He decided to extract a portion of the juice after crushing the Zinfandel grapes before fermentation, also known as the French method of saignée (or “bleeding”). Bleeding deepens the wine’s red color and boldens the flavor since it adds a larger amount of grape skin. Trinchero’s method produced the dark, rich wine he strived for in the 1972 Sutter Home Zinfandel.
The remaining pulp of the grape innards was much lighter and pinker than the typical Zinfandel. Trinchero decided to bottle this new white wine into 220 cases. The wine tasted similar to Chardonnay's hard, dry, and coarse qualities. Regulators insisted Trinchero give this new wine an American name, thus the label White Zinfandel.
Regulators mandated that a wine label couldn’t solely use a foreign term and insisted that Sutter Home include an English-language descriptor. Since it was white and made from Zinfandel grapes, Bob wrote “White Zinfandel” under the French name to satisfy the regulators. The wine, tough to position in the market, was not met with instant acceptance. Bob ultimately decided not to make the wine again in 1973.
It took Sutter Home over three wine production seasons in three years for the White Zinfandel to be accepted and successful in the wine market. The difference in the third batch was the wine was stored in barrels for two weeks, causing a very light pink color.
Interesting Fact: In the third year that Trinchero attempted selling the White Zinfandel, the wine completely sold out and became the first Sutter Home wine to sell out every year after that.
White Zinfandel Food Pairings
Zinfandel is a moderately sweet wine with melon and strawberry notes. The best pairings are with light meats, spicy sauces, cheeses, and desserts.
The Best White Zinfandel Pairings
If you aren’t consuming your chilled White Zinfandel as an aperitif before your meal, serve it with appetizers such as cold-cut meats like thinly sliced salami or pancetta mild-flavored cheeses, salads, and antipasto.
For the main meal, since White Zinfandel is sweet, it is best to pair it with lighter meats such as chicken and pork in order to prevent the wine from being overpowered. Just like the Red Zinfandel, spicy foods are amazing with the White. Desserts are also an excellent choice due to the White Zinfandel’s sweet nature!
Food Pairings to Avoid with White Zinfandel
Since Zinfandel is sweeter than run-of-the-mill wine, you should not pair it with overpoweringly sweet foods that overcome its flavor. Desserts can be overwhelming and overly sugar-dosed, which flattens the Zinfandel. Also, do not pair the wine with grilled red meat.
Zinfandel’s thin-skinned grapes thrive in warm but not too hot climates 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.
White Zinfandel Production Process
White Zinfandel is not a different variety of grape but rather a different process in production. As mentioned earlier, the method in creating the wine is called “bleeding.” When Bob Trinchero of Sutter Home stored the remaining juice in barrels for two weeks, the wine was struck by a stuck fermentation. The fermentation was paused before all the grape sugar could be converted into alcohol. At this point in time the wine is too stubborn to revert back into the fermentation process, leaving 2% residual sugar.
White Zinfandel Comparisons
There is a reason that 85% of Zinfandel grapes are made into White Zinfandel! The wine has a low alcohol and caloric content and a soothing sweet palette. The process of creating White Zinfandel is unique, deemed the saigneé or bleeding method, and it includes concentrating the red wine by removing some of the pink juice and allowing the remaining wine more contact with color-inducing grape skins.
White Zinfandel and Rosé look very similar since they are both clear pink wines but taste worlds apart. Many wine enthusiasts love White Zinfandel but hate Rosé, and vice versa, because White Zinfandel is much sweeter while Rosé can be dry and hearty.
White Zinfandel in a Nutshell
As one of the oldest vines ever to be tamed into wine, Zinfandel has been through a tumultuous journey to popularity and establishment. It was a stroke of genius by Sutter Homes to experiment with this iconic grape to create a completely new, adored wine.
California winemakers soon discovered they too, could make the low alcoholic and highly sweet creation. The White Zinfandel has proved an amazing party wine with its sweet and easygoing personality. Whether you enjoy your bottle with a spicy dish or light meat, a White Zinfandel will satisfy you every time.
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
Made primarily from the Sangiovese grape, with hints of cherry and plums.