Zinfandel originated in Croatia, where it is known as Crljenak kaštelanski. Popular in California, it was once thought to be from America but in 1993, through DNA fingerprinting, it was proven that Zinfandel and Primitivo are genetically identical clones.
It is grown in California, Italy (as Primitivo) and Croatia (as Crljenak kaštelanski ). As well as in France, Montenegro (as Kratkošija), Northern Macedonia, Australia, Chile, Israel, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa and Tunisia.
Plantings have decreased in South Africa to 22.5 hectares found mostly in Stellenbosch and Paarl with Blaauwklippen and Idiom being the primary producers of these wines.
Also known as:
Gioia Del Colle, Locale, Morellone, Plavac Veliki, Primaticcio, Primativo, Primitivo, Primitivo Di Gioia, Primitivo Nero, Uva Della Pergola, Uva Di Corato, Zin (informal), ZPC, Black St. Peters, Zenfendal, Zinfardel, Zinfindal, Taranto, Zeinfandall, Zinfardell, Zinfindel, Zinfandal.
On the vine:
Zinfandel is a vigorous growing vine that is known to ripen unevenly, usually producing bunches containing both fully ripe raisined berries, and unripe green berries. This contributes to the range of dried and fresh fruit characteristics in the wines.
The early ripening, thin skinned berries grow in large tight bunches and are high in sugar content. They are susceptible to bunch rot and botrytis. Weather permitting, they may be harvested late in the season to produce sweet wines.
The vines are able to produce well into old age, with California boasting grape producing vines over 100 years old.
In the bottle:
Zinfandel can produce a range of wines from rosé wines, low to high alcohol dry wines, to fortified sweet wines. The uneven ripening produces diverse notes that include black cherries, blackberries, raspberries, mint chocolate, cinnamon, cloves, tobacco and pepper. Moderate tannins, high acidity and often high alcohol.
Good quality wines are able to age for as many as 30 years, but are best consumed within 15 years.
Medium garnet in colour with a medium nose that leads with tertiary stewed dried fruits, tar, potpourri, mushed strawberries that have oxidised, a hint of raspberries, plump sweet sultanas soaked in orange zest and juice, cedar, star anise, a light sprinkle of cloves…and I swear there’s some sweet coconut.
Dry? but it feels sweeter because of the dried fruit bouquet, integrated medium tannins, medium acidity and a medium+ body. Ending with a medium finish of something green and herbal, raspberries, sweet oranges and raisins. The finish feels like a spicy mulled wine with a generous amount of oranges simmered in the wine.
The bold dark fruits pair particularly well with meats - grilled steaks or chicken and barbeque pork chops or ribs. You can’t go wrong with the ever popular burger or pasta in a tomato based sauce options. Speaking of tomato based sauces - baked beans could be really yum. Don’t forget to match the array of spice notes in the wine to your spice cupboard…curry...mmm. Bolder Zins would stand up well to aged cheddar and gruyere. Lighter styles would brie and gouda.
Find the Wine:
Grande Provence no longer produces this wine, but it may be worth contacting them to check on their library stock.
Other wines to try:
• Blaauwklippen make a range of Zinfandels in a variety of styles that include Methode Cap Classique, white Zinfandel, and even a gin.
• Idiom Zinfandel