- California's Twin Champion

by Peter May

Zinfandel  is a red grape claimed as California's own. It is not native to America, being an immigrant from Europe. Recent DNA research has shown it is very closely related to the Italian Primitivo variety, both varieties being clones of now rare Croation variety Crljenak Kastelanski, pronounced tsurl-YEN-ahk kahstel-AHN-ski.

    Not having to look over their shoulders to the old world has freed Zinfandel makers to make Zinfandel how they want, and it is wonderfully flexible. Red wines can be light and fresh, fruity and spicy or dry and elegantly serious.

    Many people were first introduced to Zinfandel through its white or 'blush' twin. This was invented in the 1970s when red wine consumption dropped. They crushed the grapes without letting the skins color the clear juice. It became instantly successful, since when wines have been made sweeter and pinker. Now one in every ten bottles of wine sold in America is a white Zinfandel. It offers citrus and sweet strawberry flavors.

    Zinfandel is also used for sweet dessert and fortified port like wines, and is being grown elsewhere, including Israel, South America and South Africa.

    But for most serious wine lovers, Zinfandel means red. Its characteristics are a deep red colour with spicy flavours. It can be a 'big' wine, reaching high alcohol levels and it can age well. Several winemakers are credited with raising Zinfandel's reputation. In particular Joel Peterson at Ravenswood, who realized the value of old vines and hunted down 100 year old Zinfandel vineyards for his winery, and Paul Draper at Ridge who crafts single vineyard wines, using field blends containing small amounts of Petite Sirah for complexity.

    Today, red Zinfandel is a wine that can stand comparison with any wine in the world, while its white twin is rules the market at home.

Food Match
Fish, Pasta with cream based sauces
Any hearty meal, especially steaks and hamburgers
Beringer, Sutter Home
Ravenswood, Ridge (all from California)

If you have been, thanks for reading.

Sin Zin label
Its a sin to resist zinfandel

© Copyright Peter May 2002.

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1 January 2002