Red Zinfandel


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 the 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 are hard and richly flavored cheeses including manchego and cheddar. Pungent and heart vegetables are also an excellent pairing, ones like roasted tomatoes, red peppers, caramelized onions, and roasted squash. 

Food Pairings to Avoid with Zinfandel

Since Zinfandel is more bold than your average red wine 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 Grapes

Zinfandel’s thin-skinned grapes thrive in climates that are warm, but not too hot, since they are prone to shrivel. They grow in large bunches that are extremely close knit which causes them to frequently have bunch rot. The grapes contain their high sugar content because of the vines early ripening period. The longer they bathe in the sun, the more likely they are to 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.

Red Zinfandel

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 has a very bold body. Its moderate tannins and high acidity also contribute to its boldness. 

Shop our Syrah Collection

Our Selection of Red Zinfandel

  • California: 2017 El Portal Vineyard Select Zinfandel - With hints of spice that excite like an ocean breeze, and red fruit flavors that are as bold as the Golden State sun, nothing says “California” like Zinfandel. Open a bottle of 2017 El Portal Vineyard Select Zinfandel and pour a classic from one of the oldest Zinfandel plantings in California. This easy-drinking red wine entices with aromas of berries, plums, and red currants, balanced by savory, oaky hints that are positively delicious with tangy, spicy meals like barbecue ribs or meaty chili.
  • California: 2017 Lone Cardinal Lodi Zinfandel - This delicious California red takes flight in the glass with luxurious boysenberry and blueberry flavors that join hints of plum, vanilla, and spice. Open a bottle and taste why Lodi, California is the Wine Enthusiast 2015 Wine Region of the Year, a region that has “…grabbed international attention for the quality of the new wines made from its legendary old Zinfandel vines and a profusion of young, diverse grape varieties.”
  • California: 2017 Fair Oaks Ranch Zinfandel - The latest vintage of Fair Oaks’ Gold Medal-winning, claret-style Zinfandel is packed with rich berry jam flavors and hints of black pepper and anise. A nice touch of acidity creates a clean, food friendly finish. Our wine panel enjoyed it from appetizers through to chocolaty dessert and wished they had more.
  • California: 2017 Sierra Trails Old Vine Zinfandel - Coming to us from some of the oldest Zinfandel plantings in California, 2017 Sierra Trails Old Vine Zinfandel is a complex red with aromas of ripe berry, dried plum, and red currants. The flavor hints at tobacco, black pepper, and sweet oak, which carries the fruits through a lingering finish. Pair this red with tangy, spicy meals like barbecue and chili.

Red 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. 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.