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Zinfandel is a varietal wine made of two types of zinfandel grapes- the red and white. The red colored wine, which is regarded as a “Quintessential American wine”, is dark in color and is a fruity-flavored, spicy tasting wine. The white varietal which came later is mild and sweet in flavor. Zinfandel wine was believed to have originated in California, but now it seems to be actually having its roots in Croatia where it was found related to the Croatian grape Crljenak. Zinfandel wine was brought to California in the early part of the 19th century. The white varietal Zinfandel is more popular in the United States, its sales being six times that of the red varietal.

Origin of Zinfandel Wine

Zinfandel originated in the Caucasus region where the grape was found to have been grown since 6000 BC and cultivation of wine started a little after. The cultivation of wine was spread to the Mediterranean regions and several indigenous varieties of grapes which are genetically related to Zinfandel were grown in Croatia since the 19th century. The introduction of Zinfandel to the United States seems to be from the Imperial Nursery of Vienna in Austria. George Gibbs of Long Island who shipped in the grapes from Schonbrunn and other regions of Europe in 1820-1829 and supplied grapes called “Black St. Peters” (which seemed to be the same as Zinfandel in California in 1870) to Prince in 1830.Meanwhile Samuel Perkins sold “Zinfandel” in Boston in 1830.

Regions Growing Zinfandel Grapes and Producing Zinfandel wine

Zinfandel grapes are grown in a number of regions as described below:

California and other regions- though Zinfandel is mainly grown in California, it is grown in other regions also like Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, New York, Massachusetts and other regions of the United states of America. Zinfandel wine of different styles, which includes different types of late harvest dessert wine, rose wines (made of white Zinfandel), Beaujolais type light wines to intense red wines, and fortified wines are produced in the country. San Joaquin County, Madera County, Stanislaus County of California, are famous for their Zinfandel blends and jug wine. Amador is famous for its full-bodied Zinfandel wines with sweet berry aroma. The Santa Cruz variety of Zinfandel wines are complex and deep wines while the wines from the Sonoma County are blackberry, anise or pepper flavored. The Paso Robles AVA wines are known for their softness and roundness. Zinfandels of Napa Valley are strong and plum-like with cedar and vanilla flavorings. Zinfandel wine from the Russian river valley region is known for its spicy flavors and lower alcoholic content in comparison to the same wine from other regions. Zinfandel wines from Mendocino County, though of superior quality are not all that popular as they are not marketed adequately. The Lodi region, having some of the oldest wines of California, is known for its succulent red Zinfandel wines.

Italy and Croatia are known for their cultivation of Primitivo and Crljenak Kaštelanski grapes and production of wines from them.

Preparation of Zinfandel Wine

Zinfandel, acclaimed well for its terrier and style, is made using grapes that grow the best in warm, but not hot climatic conditions. The grapes grow in bunches and ripen fast with a high sugar content in them when fully ripe. The grapes may be allowed to sweeten further by late harvesting to produce dessert wines.

Picking grapes for the production of wine can be a time taking process as the grapes in a bunch are known to have the unusual quality of ripening to different extents. Some grapes may be fully ripe, while others may be green and unripe. The grapes are selected either by vinification or hand picked. The latter involves the time consuming task of several rounds of grape picking; which is one of the most significant factors in the high cost of Zinfandel wine.

Red Zinfandel has been unfavorably looked upon by many as it is known to contain a high amount of alcohol. Modern wine making techniques like reverse osmosis and spinning cones have been devised to lower the alcohol content in Zinfandel wines and make them ore approachable. But according to Joel Peterson, Ravenswood, this would mean a compromise on the terrior of the wine.

Food Pairing of Zinfandel Wine

Zinfandel is one of the most versatile wines when it comes to pairing with food. It can be paired with any of the foods listed below:

· Meat- Zinfandel wine is paired with common meats like pork, beef and lamb. It is also paired with others like spare ribs, Italian Sausage, Brisket and Venison. This wine is best suited for pairing with barbecue pork ribs, leg of lamb and meat used in heavy meals.

· Poultry- the lighter variety of the wine is suited for pairing with poultry like duck, quail, chicken, pheasant and especially Turkey( the turkey pairing is now the most popular pairing for Thanksgiving).

· Pasta- the wine is paired with Lasagna, Cannelloni, and Spaghetti. The heavier variety of the wine is best paired with tomato-based dishes while the lighter varieties go well with creamy pastas.

· Soups and Stews- Zinfandel pairs well with beef stew, chili soups and pizza. It also pairs well with seafood stews, soups and grilled fish. It pairs well with tuna, bouillabaisse and Cioppino.

· Cheese- Zinfandel wine pairs with a variety of cheeses like aged cheddar cheese, gouda cheese, Asiago, Dry Jack and Parmesan.

Serving Zinfandel Wine

Zinfandel is ideally served at 60 – 80 degrees. This wine should not be served too hot or too cold. Many people do not find 80 degrees a good temperature to drink Zinfandel wine as it makes it taste hot, strongly alcoholic and raspy.

Zinfandel: Trivia

The White Zinfandel wine is similar to the Gewurztraminer.