With the ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers) Festival only about a week away, let’s talk Zin!
For a long time we called Zinfandel “The California grape.” In fact, I still see references to Zin as a uniquely American or Californian wine. That, in spite of the fact that it doesn’t look like, taste like or have the growing habits of native-American varieties. Everything about it screams vinifera (vines of European origin) but no one could find its European counterpart. And, foolishly, because it didn’t appear to have the European pedigree, added on to the fact that its generosity of yield made it a staple for “jug reds”, it didn’t get much respect until recently.
Does it deserve respect? You betcha! If it isn’t truly a California grape, it’s certainly our heritage grape. This was the most popular wine variety in California in the late 1800s up until prohibition. Thank heavens for the industrious home winemakers and bootleggers during those thirteen years. Without them, most of the Zin would have been planted over to prunes or walnuts and we wouldn’t be able to enjoy all the wonderful old-vine Zins we take for granted today. And, thanks go to the White Zinfandel producers beginning in the 1970s, too. Same story. Without White Zin, most of those old vines would have been bulldozed decades ago, when red Zin fell out of favor. Today, Zinfandel is #4 on the list of top varieties planted in California, behind Merlot (#3), Cabernet (#2) and Chardonnay.
TIP! When you buy a California “field blend” Zinfandel is usually a major player, if not the lead player.
I love Zinfandel. Sometimes I get into a space where nothing else will do. In spite of all the complaints about its being high octane and sometimes sweet, I just love that bright mouthful of berries.
I just check the alcohol before I buy and avoid those brands that have been boozy or sweet in the past. We’ll take a good look at Zin before the ZAP festival, which starts on the 31st and goes through February 2nd.
ZAP, by the way, is short for “Zinfandel Advocates and Producers” and this annual tasting is what many people look forward to as the greatest tasting event of the year. If you live in the Bay Area or plan to be in the area at the end of the month the ZAP festival can be a wonderful, if somewhat dangerous, diversion and a chance to try some really fine Zins you haven’t tasted before.
Dangerous, because more of us will go to the Grand Tasting, on Saturday the 2nd, than any other event and there are a bazillion wineries represented there. It takes some serious self control to prevent it from morphing into a Zin blowout that results in equally serious cotton mouth and monster headache later on. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
Well, the ZAP Grand Tasting may be a deliriously happy, fuzzy memory by now, but the website carries on! Here are some really great recipes to pair with your favorite Zin, courtesy of ZAP (gotta have those Tortellini Porcine)! Cheers!
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