Zinfandel: The All-American Wine for the Fourth!


What’s an all-American wine to drink with your barbecued burgers today? Zinfandel, of course!

There really aren’t any main-stream, popular wines made from native American varieties. But, Zinfandel certainly deserves an honorary nod as the all-American grape because California is the place that made it’s name and made it so very beloved by pizza-hounds world wide! Or, if not all American, you can say at least our heritage grape.

TRIVIA! Did you know that Zinfandel was the most widely planted grape in California before prohibition? Yup! The fave by far!

TRIVIA x2! If is wasn’t for the very enterprising bootleggers and thirsty home winemakers, during prohibition, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy old-vine Zin today! At least here in the Napa Valley, it would have been bulldozed and planted over to prunes and walnuts, the preferred replacement crops. Not so good for tourism, eh?

We used to call Zinfandel the “California grape” because we couldn’t find it planted anywhere else, ie Europe. But viticulturists and ampelographers always knew it had to have come from Europe originally. It just doesn’t have the appearance or growing habits of native American varieties.

Dr. Carole Meredith, of UC Davis, to the rescue (with some help!) After years and years of research (your tax dollars at work) she traced Zinfandel back to Croatia. It’s the same as a grape there, quite a rare one, called Crljenak Kastenlanski – try saying that after a glass of Zin! Best guess is it traveled to Puglia, the heel of the boot in Italy, where it’s known as Primitivo. It’s believed it traveled to our east coast via Austria around 1820 and then made its way out west where it became a star! These three grapes share the same DNA. The Primitivo that grows in Puglia doesn’t look or taste quite the same as the Zin we enjoy here, probably due to clonal differences (mutation in the vineyard is quite normal.)

Zin made a roaring come back after repeal of prohibition and moved, once again, into first place as the most popular red for a brief period of time. If I’m up to date I think it’s the number 3 red, now, after Cabernet and Merlot.

What’s not to love?? Fruity, fruity, fruity – hard to resist – and a good dose of spice too!

Those of you who scoff at White Zinfandel, which is essentially a white wine in practical use, should know that the White Zin craze of the 70s saved Zin when it was faced with the bulldozer once again. Red Zin fell out of favor, for a variety of reasons around that time. As you sip that old-vine Zin give a salute to Bob Trinchero of Sutter Home fame!

As far as the burgers go, it seems to me that Zin is great with barbecued anything. Steaky fish, tri-tip, the sweetness of pork loin with a nice char on it… It loves red sauce too – thus the pizza fixation – it’s got the acidity to stand up to those acidic tomatoes, so bring on the spaghetti and meatballs, chicken cacciatore…  

Vitals: medium to full bodied red, dry (usually) or dry-ish

Flavor profile: Ripe, zesty, very berry: raspberry, boysenberry, strawberry, brambly, spicy; often a bit jammy

Caution: Can be remarkably  high in alcohol, which usually translates to Port-like flavors. I always check the label before I buy.

Happy 4th! What will you be drinking? 

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One response to “Zinfandel: The All-American Wine for the Fourth!

  1. Pingback: The Week in Zinfandel (6/29/15) | Zinfandel Chronicles

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