10 Best Zinfandel Wines to Buy Now + 5 Surprising Facts about Zinfandel

Bottle clusterZinfandel is a vitis vinifera red wine grape that produces deep robust wines, most famously from California.

You’ll find my most recent Zinfandel reviews and ratings here.

Surprising Facts about Zinfandel:

1. Zinfandel’s high sugar content means it can be fermented into highly alcoholic wines sometimes in excess of 15%.  Zinfandel is generally early ripening as compared to other grapes and grows in very tight bunches.

These tight bunches are prone to bunch rot and uneven ripening. Zinfandel grows best in warm climates but there is cool climate Zinfandel.

2. The origin of Zinfandel seems to be Croatia where Zinfandel was the basis of winemaking in the 19th century. DNA fingerprinting reveals Zinfandel is genetically linked to the Croatian grapes Crljenak Kastelanski and Tribidrag.

3. Primitivo is grown in the Puglia region of Italy and estimated to be that country’s 12th most planted varietal. Historically, Primitivo was fermented and shipped north to Tuscany and Piedmont to be blended with regional wines to add depth.

Today, Primitivo is made in a rustic style with high alcohol up to 16% and aged in American oak to give Primitivo its American Zinfandel style.

4. Zinfandel then made its way across the Mediterranean Sea to Puglia, Italy where Zinfandel is known as Primitivo. Zinfandel’s arrival in the United States may have been on Long Island, New York.

George Gibbs, a horticulturist, received grapes for planting from Austrian controlled Croatia between 1820-1829. At that time Zinfandel was treated as a table grape.

The 1850’s California Gold Rush brought Zinfandel to California as a table grape. William Robert Prince and fellow horticulturalists such as Frederick W. Macondray joined the Gold Rush and it was during that time they noted Zinfandel’s ability to dry into beautiful raisins.

Joseph W. Osborne was the first to make wine from Zinfandel with grapes he received from Macondray. He planted them at his Oak Knoll vineyard in the North Napa region. His wine was praised and

Zinfandel took off. By the late 19th century it was the most planted varietal in California.

5. The Great Depression and Prohibition during the 1930’s seriously stunted the growth of the Zinfandel wine industry. As the Depression and Prohibition ended there was a serious lack of quality Zinfandel grapes and this left Zinfandel all but forgotten.

In 1972, a British wine writer wrote about “a fascinating California grape.” American writers began singing the praises of Zinfandel calling it “a California original.”

Today Zinfandel is the third most planted grape in California behind Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Zinfandel characteristics vary depending on where it is grown and ripeness of grapes at harvest. Warm climate Zinfandel displays deep colour, juicy texture, blackberry, anise and pepper. Raspberry and strawberry in cooler climates.

Exceptional Zinfandel comes out of Napa and Sonoma, Russian River Valley, Paso Robles, Amador and Santa Clara Valley in California.

Other counties growing small amounts of Zinfandel are: South Africa, Australia, Mexico and Croatia.

Food pairing: BBQ meats or hearty meat meals, lasagne, cannelloni, spaghetti Bolognaise, aged cheddar, Asiago

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