One of the things we’ve tried to do in NWTW is to go round the wine-making world and pick out the grapes that really define the country we’ve picked for that week. For our first visit to the USA we had to go for Zinfandel. It’s only grown in the USA and has become a full on flag flyer for the country’s wine production. Or at least in theory anyway…
The reason I put in the last comment is that tests have shown it’s actually identical (talking about DNA here!) to Primitivo from southern Italy, and Crljenak Kaštelanski (good luck with the pronunciation) from Croatia. So it’s not really the only place in the world it’s grown, but it’s the only place it’s called Zinfandel, and it’s also got plenty of other factors that make it unique!
The fact that it has found areas of California that suit it perfectly leaves it out there on its own in world wine. It’s a funny grape in that it ripens very unevenly. You’ve got to leave the bunch of grapes on the vine until they’ve all ripened, by which time some of the grapes are over ripe and even raisined. This means you often get very full wines, with usually very high levels of alcohol. If you can get the grapes ripening as evenly as possible then you’re really at the races in terms of what you can do with it. California’s climate helps with that.
They also have great areas of what are called “old vine” Zinfandel plants. It is what it says it is. They’re just old vines, some planted a long long time ago! Usually you get lower yields, but really concentrated grapes. The red berry fruit flavours that are synonymous with Zinfandel really shine trough. They can be a bit more expensive as wines, but well worth trying.
This doesn’t mean recently planted Zinfandel isn’t up to the mark. It can still produce great wines. They’re also used to make White Zinfandel, which is usually a pale, fruity, medium sweet rosé. You can buy that stuff everywhere! But this week we’re going to gloss over that for now and head straight for the full, red berry fruit, and high alcohol reds.
Other posts in NWTW Week 16: