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Zinfandel: Five Fast Facts on The All-American Wine

Zinfandel: Five Fast Facts on The All-American Wine

Several bottles of wine, including Mina Mesa Zinfandel. A glass of Zinfandel sits in front of it.

Zinfandel. It’s the grape that’s been growing in California for over a century. Karen MacNeil in The Wine Bible says it “can be as lovable and irresistible as puppies.” And it’s my latest obsession. Let’s learn more about this, in my opinion, underrated wine!

1. It comes from Croatia.

Firstly, Zinfandel came from an unlikely place: Croatia. The wine expert of experts, Jancis Robinson, mentions that its Croatian name is Crljenak Kaštelanski (I unfortunately don’t have a pronunciation guide at this time).

2. It’s California’s Heritage Grape.

The San Francisco Chronicle gives it this distinction in its article. But they’re not the only one saying it. Total Wine calls it “America’s Grape” and “California’s Sweetheart Grape” in its Zinfandel brochure.

A young couple walk on Huntington Beach. Huntington Beach Pier, the Pacific Ocean, and the Sun are in the background.
California’s heritage: sun, surf, freedom, Hollywood, and spicy delicious Croatian grapes.

3. Zinfandel’s not just the sweet rosé you know.

Unless you’re drinking White Zinfandel, Zinfandel is completely dry.

It’s a red wine bursting with berry flavor. Sorry fellow Millennials, I now sound like a Fruit Gushers commercial. But with all this fruitiness, it’s completely dry. Furthermore, it has notes of cinnamon spice and vanilla blended together.

And if you just didn’t think this wine could surprise you any more, think again. It also has a finish (aftertaste) of earthy tobacco.

If you’ve read my article on tasting wine, you’ll know that looking at the wine and observing its color is part of the sensory experience. Well, Zinfandel is the perfect example of this. It’s got a deep purple color that is simply mesmerizing.

4. Zinfandel packs a punch, but you won’t know.

Be careful when drinking this wine, because it usually is around 15% alcohol. This is about the highest alcohol content of what a good wine should contain. What’s more is that it doesn’t taste very hot, which means that you don’t detect it very well, or at least not like you’d expect of such a wine.

5. Look to Paso Robles for good deals on Zinfandel.

I will admit that Paso Robles is one wine region I need to learn more about. It seems like people can’t get enough of Paso Robles wine these days, and they certainly grow a lot of Zinfandel there. If you want to try Zinfandel outside of America, look for Primitivo, which is Italy’s name for the grape.

Zinfandel Food Pairings

Overall, wine freaks and geeks love to pair Zinfandel with barbecue. Yep, All-American wine with All-American food!

While not a food pairing, I also think that Zinfandel would be a great wine to make mulled wine with. If you don’t know what mulled wine is, it’s wine heated with oranges, lemons, spices, and other ingredients to make a wonderful beverage. The ripe fruit and spice notes make a wine perfect for mulling.

Barbecue ribs grilling. Zinfandel would pair perfectly with them.
I took this picture on the 4th of July, which is probably the best day for Zinfandel and barbecue ribs.


All I can say is that Zinfandel is my latest wine obsession. In fact, it is my favorite red wine right now. It’s completely dry (no sweet flavor) but has bold red berry notes to it. Additionally, I love any sort of red wine that has that spice notes (like Norton), and Zinfandel’s got plenty. Try a bottle, and you might love it just as much as I do.


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