Today we’re taking a closer look at a true American Classic, a West Coast favorite. You guessed it, today’s Wine of the Week series is dedicated to Zinfandel!

A little over 70,000 acres of Zinfandel planted worldwide, with 50,000 being in the United States, and more specifically in California. Zinfandel is the American wine par excellence, often referred to as “America’s Heritage wine”. Its dark fruit flavors and bold personality make it one of America’s favorite reds – but it all started in Croatia…

A little bit of history…

It was only in 2001 that Zinfandel’s origins were discovered. Besides finding out that the Zinfandel grape is genetically identical to the Italian Primitivo, research showed that it probably originated in Croatia, from an ancient indigenous variety called Crljenak Kastelanski. And the story dates back to the 1820s, when the first Zinfandel cuttings of Croatian origins were imported in the United States, from an Austrian collection. Ten years later, the first “Zinfandel” was advertised for sale by a Boston nursery owner…and the rest is history. Today, Zinfandel grapes make internationally recognized wines, praised for high quality and unique character – and is the pride of California.

How to pick your Zinfandel?

The high alcohol levels and acidity that generally characterize Zinfandel give the wine its incredible intensity and angularity. But Zinfandel’s style also ranges from fresh and easy-drinking light-bodied to a richer, full-bodied wine with intense fruitiness and firm tannins. When picking your Zinfandel, check the alcohol levels: if you are craving a lighter Zinfandel, focus on a lower ABV (Alcohol by Volume), and for a bolder and spicy wine with a bigger and oily body, go for higher alcohol levels. Another good trick to keep in mind is that, although you will find Zinfandels from every single Californian sub-region, the popular ones remain Napa Valley, Sonoma and Lodi.

How to pair your Zinfandel?

With its intense flavor and aromas – and its American heritage – Zinfandel is the perfect cookout wine: think chicken, barbecued red meat, bacon or even burgers. A bigger, more full-bodied Zinfandel will pair particularly well with tomato-based, creamy sauces. But typically, if you are unsure, go for spices! Anything spicy will be a great pairing partner for fruity Zinfandel.

Our suggestions

Here are some of our favorite bottles – with a wide range of styles and prices, to suit all tastes:

2007 V. Sattui Crow Ridge Vineyard Zinfandel

2007 Ravenswood Dickerson Single Vineyard Zinfandel

2009 Dry Creek Heritage Zinfandel

2012 Michael David Winery 7 Deadly Zins Zinfandel