Zinfandel is a black-skinned grape whose origins tie back to Croatia. DNA testing has confirmed that Croatian grapes Crljenak Kaštelanski and Tribidrag are genetically equivalent, and equal to the Primitivo variety from Apulia, Italy. Records indicate that the grape was introduced to Italy in the 18th century, and to the United States in the mid-19th century.
Wines made from Zinfandel are robust red wines. Flavor depends on the ripeness of the grapes. In cooler climates, wines made from Zinfandel would have more red berry flavors, like raspberries. In warmer climates, the wines would have more blackberry, anise, and pepper notes.
In 1972, Bob Trinchero of Sutter Home Winery drained some grape juice from his Zinfandel fermentation in order to get more tannin and color in his Zinfandel, by having less juice in contact with the skins. The juice he removed he fermented into a dry light blush, which he, by law and restrictions, ended up calling White Zinfandel. There was a big demand for white wines, which encouraged California winemakers to make white wines from red grapes. In 1975, Trinchero’s fermentation of his White Zinfandel was stuck, meaning that the yeast died off before all the sugar was consumed and converted to alcohol. He tasted the sweet light pink wine and decided to sell it. This was the beginning of the sweet White Zinfandels. The wine became incredibly popular.
Zinfandel can often be found in blends. Cabernet-Zinfandel blends are popular in California. The rich jammy flavors of Zinfandel pair beautifully with the structure of the Cabernet Sauvignon, and if you have Cabernet Franc in the mix, it brings spice and herbaceous notes to the wine. These blends are usually aged in oak, to add notes of vanilla and coconut aromas to the wine, while reining in some of the grape tannins. Food pairings for a Cabernet-Zinfandel blend would include ravioli in meat sauce, grilled meats, and game.
Another common blend for Zinfandel includes Petite Sirah and Syrah. This blend is dark and full-bodied with its roots in California. All three grapes are known for the depth of their color, ability to have high alcohol and high tannin, making them able to be aged for a long time. Petite Sirah is intense in color and tannins, providing structure and pigment to the wine. Zinfandel brings rich, ripe fruit flavors. Syrah can bring color and peppery notes to the blend. Petite Sirah, Syrah and Zinfandel blends are rich, full-bodied wines with dark fruit flavors such as blackberry, blueberry, and plums, with pepper and spice. These blends are usually aged in oak, often American oak; therefore it has flavors of vanilla, cocoa and coconut. The wines also have notes of dark chocolate, licorice, and leather as they age. Food pairing for these wines include beef tenderloin, roasted leg of lamb, and game.
While the blends listed above are the more common Zinfandel blends, Zinfandel can often be found blended with other grapes like Sangiovese, Carignane, and Barbera. The blending options are wide open. Check out City Vino wines with zinfandel here.