If Champagne is festive, and Pinot Noir is exotic, then Zinfandel is… well, quirky. And I *love* the stuff!
First of all, unlike other major wine varietals such as Merlot, Syrah and Sangiovese, Zin’s ancestry ~ until recent DNA research pinned it down as the Croatian grape, Plavac Mali ~ was completely unknown.
Even the *appearance* of an old Zinfandel vineyard is quirky. Rather than clinging to wires and trellises, “head-pruned” Zin vines stand alone (see below) to brave the elements.
Using an arcane yet accurate theater reference, author David Darlington ~ in his book, Zin: The History And Mystery Of Zinfandel ~ describes the vines as looking like “a collection of fright wigs.”
Zinfandel’s sheer gutsiness doesn’t hurt, either: It’s one of the biggest, brawniest, most mouth-filling wines out there. Its alcohol level often measures more than 15%, and sometimes even tops 17% (!)
What’s more, Zinfandel producers brag about these features, and reinforce the wine’s offbeat reputation with whimsical names and slogans. (See video, below!) And naturally, its legions of devoted fans just can’t get enough.
At the table, Zinfandel marries well with an incredibly wide range of hard-to-pair foods ~ from spicy chili to BBQ ribs to dense, flourless chocolate cake. It’s also one of the best choices around for everyday fare such as pizza, burgers, mac ‘n’ cheese, and pasta with meaty tomato sauce.
It’s no surprise, then, that Zinfandel should have an organization of its own, namely Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (better known, of course, as “ZAP”; see the barrel, above). The huge annual celebration that they host every January in San Francisco is one of the season’s most popular wine events.
Here’s a fun video slideshow that will bring you right into the heart of the Grand Tasting ~ even the exclusive, media-only “Zin Zone.”
I hope you’ve enjoyed our virtual Zinfandel tasting. And I hope you’re inspired to bring home a few bottles, try them with various foods, and perhaps find some new favorite food-and-wine pairings.
Until next time, my friends ~