Call me a romantic, but old-vine zinfandels sway my allegiance from many grapes in the world. I am not sure if it is the humble respect for the twisted, awkward-growing vines or the diligent mission in proving this grape’s finest incarnations are not sweet and pink.
Zinfandel seems trapped by consumer confusion. Some think pink and light and out of fashion while others think intense, big reds and sought after. A quick history recap may help clear up confusion and change the perception that all zinfandel wines are created equal.
Zinfandel showed up in U.S. vineyards around 1850 and by the 1880s it was the most extensively planted red grape in California.
It was not until French grape varieties such as chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon arrived in the early 1960s that zinfandel plantings started to dwindle. These new grapes flourished on American soil due mainly to the ideal growing conditions of the California climate. And the arrival was timed perfectly with the growing American wine drinking market. To keep up with demand many growers grubbed the zinfandel vines and re-planted with the newcomers, meeting the demand of the fashionable sway.
In the 1970s zinfandel’s dual personality emerged with the introduction of white zinfandel. In 1972 Bob Trinchero of Sutter Home brought this grape from a rustic, full-bodied red to a medium sweet, pale pink wine. By the 1980s white zinfandel was a mass-market phenomenon that changed the image of this grape.
White zinfandel is produced by quickly removing the skins after the grapes have been pressed (this inhibits the wine from developing the dark red color) and then processing the juice as for white wine.
Times were tough, but there were a few loyal fans of zinfandel dedicated to the future of this grape, and a few vines stayed deeply rooted in the California soils.
If it weren’t for those loyal fans and the pioneers investing in a revival of this grape, the zinfandel quite possibly would have been bulldozed long ago to make way for the next trendy and fashionable grape.
- 2006 Renwood Sierra Foothills Zinfandel, California (about $10 retail)
- 2006 BV Coastal Zinfandel, California (about $10 retail)
- 2007 Bogle OV Zinfandel, California (about $12 retail)
- 2007 St. Francis Old Vines Zinfandel, California (about $30 retail)
- 2005 Renwood Jack Rabbit Flat Zinfandel, California (about $28 retail)
- 2005 Gravity Hills The Sherpa Zinfandel, California (about $30 retail)