Zinfandel is a grape variety famous not only for its taste but also for its confusing history and origin. It may have originated in southern Italy’s Apulia region, or in the Dalmatian province of Croatia. Research has shown that Zinfandel is a clone of the Croatian variety Crljenak. Though other researches claim that the Italian Primitivo is considered Zingandel’s genetic close relative.
This red grape is grown in California, and planted in over 10 percent of its vineyards. Besides California, there are Zinfandel plantings in southern Oregon, Mexico, and South America, as well as in some Australian and South African vineyards. Zinfandel is adaptable to a wide range of climates and soils.
The Zinfandel grapes typically produce a robust red wine, but a semi-sweet rose wine called White Zinfandel is also quite popular in the United States.
The taste of red Zinfandel much depends on the area where it was grown as well as the grapes’ ripeness. For example, blackberry, anise and pepper notes are common for wines produced in warmer areas, while cooler areas tend to make wines with notes of red berry fruits.
Rather versatile, Zinfandel may be light and fruity, or complex and age worthy. It varies from dry to sweet and from light to heavy full-bodied wine. It is deep red to dark purple in color and has a mouth-filling characteristic described as chewy or jammy. Zinfandel is considered as a spicy, peppery wine, with a hint of fruity flavor. A good example of red Zinfandel has a raspberry-like flavor and this very “jammy” feel when tasted.
Zinfandel is best enjoyed within 3-to-5 years after the vintage. With more bottle age, Zinfandel tends to show a pronounced “hot” taste of higher alcohol levels. In older Zinfandel some of its fruity flavors may sound quite different, more mellow.
Zinfandel is generally very food-friendly. Popular in America, Zinfandel goes well with so-called “typical American” food: burgers, barbecue, pizza, thick red sauces etc. It also harmonizes with outdoor-grilled steaks or chops, white meat, game, Chinese cuisine, or Thai cuisine.
Red Zinfandel should be served at neither warmer room temperature, nor cool fridge temperature: best at around 65 degrees. Use narrow-mouthed glasses for enjoying the aroma, flavor and taste of red Zinfandel to the full.