Guide to Wine

Guide to Zinfandel Wines

Zinfandel Grapes
Zinfandel Grapes

Uniquely American, this exuberant red wine is capable of producing top quality red wines that can rival Cabernet Sauvignon. It offers an array of flavors including black and red fruit, spice, pepper, tar, licorice and wood. Zinfandel [ZIN-fan-dell] is produced in three distinct styles. The first is the fresh and fruity, easy-drinking style that offers charm and balance with light tannins, followed by the medium-bodied, fuller flavored Zinfandels with noticeable spiciness and ripe tannins. This is followed by the big, concentrated and powerful style with intense fruit and unbelievable richness. Zinfandel is exclusively grown in California and is the most widely planted red grape variety.

Aromas

  • Fruit – Blackcurrant, Cherry, Blackberry, Plum, Raisin
  • Oak – Oak, Cedar, Smoke, Vanilla, Spice, Pepper
  • Complex – Chocolate, Coffee, Tobacco, Earth, Herb

Flavors

  • Fruit – Blackcurrant, Cherry, Blackberry, Plum, Raisin
  • Oak – Oak, Cedar, Smoke, Vanilla, Spice, Pepper
  • Complex – Chocolate, Coffee, Tobacco, Earth, Herb

Styles

  • Fresh Fruit/Easy Drinking – Filled with bright, fresh fruit and easy drinking
  • Intense Fruit/Ripe Tannins – Great fruit flavors and medium bodied with detectable tannins
  • Highly Concentrated Fruit/Firm Tannins – Full-bodied and dense with loads of fruit flavors and ample tannins

Food

  • Fresh Fruit/Easy Drinking – Aperitifs, Light Cheese
  • Intense Fruit/Ripe Tannins – Lamb, Venison
  • Highly Concentrated Fruit/Firm Tannins – Red Meat

Region

  • California – Napa Valley, Alexander Valley and Amador County

Depending on the climate and vineyard location, as well as the producers, California winemakers generally produce three styles of red Zinfandel: light bodied and easy drinking, medium bodied with ripe tannins and full bodied with intense fruit and firm tannins. Zinfandel offers red fruit flavors.

Light-Bodied – These are by far the most abundant and the most popular. They are light, young, fresh Zinfandels in a Beaujolais style with fresh-forward berry flavors. These are wines of easy charm and balance that are drinkable upon release. They go well with food and can be enjoyed on a daily basis without denting your budget. Examples of this style include Ravenswood and Monthaven.

Medium-Bodied – These upon release have more fruit flavors than the light-bodied styles and the tannins are more detectable. The spicy character becomes more apparent and the finish is longer. These are great selections to complement meat dishes. Wonderful examples of these are Sobon Estate and Alterra.

Full-Bodied – These are richer, deeply hued Zinfandels with a capacity for aging. They are concentrated and powerful with an underlying spiciness overlaid with flavors of raspberries and blackberries. Some are produced from vineyards planted with very old vines. Sobon Estate, Ridge and Rosenblum make outstanding examples of this style.

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