All About Zinfandel

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Pronunciations – “zin-fuhn-del” 

There aren’t many grapes in the world with as long and interesting a history as Zinfandel. Zinfandel is a grape variety that bears this name in the USA and it was long thought that the grape is of Italian origin. It is true that the grape variety was brought to the USA by Italian immigrants, however it was recently discovered that it wasn’t native to Italy.

Originally from Croatia where it is known as Crljenak Kastelanski, it came from an older grape variety called Tribidrag. It was brought to Italy and after it made its way to the USA where it is grown mostly in California. 

The most famous regions are Puglia in Italy and in California it is produced in Lodi, Sonoma, Sierra Foothills and Mendocino. Zinfandel has a medium intensity and a ruby color, with slight rim variation.  It ripens unevenly which leads to some herbaceous aromas alongside overripe fruit.

Zinfandel Tasting Notes

Primary Notes – Red Fruit (Red plum, Sour Cherry) Black fruit (Blackberry, Black Plum) Herbaceous 

Secondary Notes – Oak (Vanilla, Smoke, Cloves, Sweet Spices) MLF (Butter, Cream) 

Tertiary Notes – with age it develops leather, cedar, old cupboard, tobacco and chocolate aromas

Body – Medium to Full bodied

Palate – Sweetness – Dry; Acidity – Medium to High; Tannins – Medium to High;

Typical ABV% – 13-16%

Zinfandel Styles 

Zinfandel is produced in a couple of different styles, although predominantly it is made as a still red wine. Old world style tends to be jammy and fruity, with a bit of herbaceous notes and a good oak influence. New world style tends to be more ripe, a bit jammy as well with lots of oak influence but less herbaceous aromas. 

However there is a certain style made in the USA, and it is called White Zinfandel. This pale rose wine tends to have a low alcohol level and a solid sugar level. Sometimes Zinfandel is made in a fortified style and as a VDN, a naturally sweet wine. 

Zinfandel Classifications 

An old world Zinfandel, or Primitivo as it is called in Italy, is mostly grown in the region of Puglia where it has a DOC called Primitivo di Manduria DOC. There is a separate DOCG called Primitivo di Manduria Dolce Naturale and this is an appellation for sweet wine production.

When grown in the USA, it doesn’t necessarily have its own appellations since the law is a bit different but it is mostly grown in several AVAs. 

These AVAs are Sonoma, Mendocino, Sierra Foothills and Lodi. 

When To Drink Zinfandel

Zinfandel should be drunk with meat such as turkey, pork, bacon and sometimes even red meats. Cheese should be rich and hard, such as cheddar. Zinfandel has a sweet spice character, so it pairs well with dishes with a lot of spices. 

Zinfandel Serving Temperature – 60-64ºF (16-18ºC)

Best Years To Drink Zinfandel

Zinfandels are a bit specific when it comes to aging. With age they tend to lose their characteristic fruit aromas and get more earthy. This does happen with most red wines, however Zinfandel is special because of its fruit aromas, and when that goes away the character of the wine changes a lot. 

It does depend on the taste, but we wouldn’t recommend going longer than 10 years although some can survive up to 15 years of age. 

Zinfandel Nutrition Facts

Since Zinfandel tends to be higher in alcohol it has about 130 calories and about 5g of carbs.
A bottle of Zin would have about 690 calories and 30g of carbs. 

Fun Facts About Zinfandel

Zinfandel was long thought to be originally Italian, however it is a Croatian grape variety. 

Zinfandel is believed to have been cultivated from Tribidrag in the Austro-Hungarian Empire in Vienna. 

The grape bunches tend to ripen unevenly, with some berries being still green while others are overripe.


Zinfandel Grape Information

Zinfandel Food Pairing