Zinfandel wines are considered by many to be the wine of California. The grape, in its present form, is almost exclusively grown in California, although it has roots in Europe. Zinfandel, the grape variety, accounts for over 10% of all California vineyards. It is a red-skinned grape.
By genetic research, it has been confirmed that the grape known as Zinfandel in California today, is an ancestor of a grape first grown in Croatia known as Crljenak Kaštelanski. This same grape was earlier transplanted to parts of Italy, particularly in southern Italy (in the "heel"), where it is known as Primitivo.
At some point in the 19th century, immigrants brought these grapes to California where plantings started to flourish. The origin of the name Zinfandel is unknown, but the California version of this grape became popular and is now widely grown throughout the state, especially in Napa and Sonoma in northern California.
Where Is Zinfandel Wine Made?
As mentioned above, almost all Zinfandel is grown in California. It is extremely rare to find wine from any other region labeled as such. However, a small amount of Italian Primitivo can be found in US markets. Wines from Croatia from the grape are rare nowadays.
What Styles of Wine Does Zinfandel Produce and What Do They Taste Like?
Typically, Zinfandel produces dry, robust, full-bodied red wines. These wines can vary considerably but often are rich and can have a brambly or peppery personality to them, making them quite spicy and wild in character. Depending on the vineyard and how they are vinified, the grape is capable of producing both fruity wines that are quite ripe and easy to drink as well as wines that are quite dark, intense and complex.
Most Zinfandel is made to be drunk in the relatively near term as most of the ripe, forward fruit flavors will fade quickly. However, some producers make wine that can age and even improve in bottle for years. Producers such as Ravenswood and Ridge, particularly their single vineyard wines, are known to fall into this category.
The best Zinfandel often have a ripeness and seductive fruitiness that rivals Californian Pinot Noir, yet it has a darker, more full-bodied palate and an almost Rhone-like peppery spiciness.
A large amount of Zinfandel is used to produce a rosé type wine called White Zinfandel. Although Zinfandel grapes are red skinned and true Zinfandel wines are red, these wines are made with minimal skin contact and therefore are rose or blush in color. These wines are mostly simple and often slightly sweet. They are generally not considered very serious wines of quality and are not to be considered "true" Zinfandel wines.
In addition, there are some California port-style wines that are produced from late-harvested Zinfandel. These sweet red wines can vary from just off dry to very sweet, full-bodied fortified wines.
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