Old vine red Zinfandels - made from vines that were planted at least 50 years ago - are known to be more full bodied and have better balance than their younger counterparts. — Photo courtesy of Naotake Murayama
What do DNA testing and wine tasting have in common? More than you think. Until 1994, the origins of Zinfandel, currently California’s third most planted varietal, were relatively uncertain. But DNA testing that year revealed that Zinfandel grapes bear a genetic similarity to Primitivo grapes, a robust grape originating in Croatia and now grown in the Puglia (or “heel”) area of Italy.
Zinfandel grapes are used to make two dramatically different styles of wine. Red Zinfandel wine - known more simply as Zinfandel - is celebrated for its intense flavor profile, rich, dark color and relatively high alcohol content. When tasting Zinfandel, look for the aromas and flavors of berries, cherries, peppers and spices combined with varying levels of oak. A bottle of old vine Zinfandel pairs nicely with meat dishes.
Red Zinfandel pairs rich fruit flavors with a deep red color. — Photo courtesy of Evan Wood
White Zinfandel is a much sweeter wine that is produced using exact same dark red Zinfandel grapes. For White Zinfandel, the grape skins are removed quickly after crushing, resulting in a light blush or rosé color. White Zinfandel is very sugary and low in alcohol, ideal for immediate consumption rather than aging.
Zinfandel vines prefer warm, but not hot, climates. Although many states in the USA boast vineyards that include Zinfandel grapes, California leads the charge, producing over 300,000 tons each year.