What color is your Zin?
If you answered "white" to this trick question, you're probably not a wine "geek," but you're certainly not alone: White Zinfandel is the third-largest-selling varietal wine in U.S. food stores, according to a fact sheet that came in today from the California Wine Institute.
White Zin trails only Chardonnay and Merlot in the supermarket sweepstakes, although the chances are that it ranks much farther back in the pack at the fine-wine shops where more serious wine enthusiasts congregate. Its low-end popularity certainly makes it a money wine for the industry, though, and it's no coincidence that many restaurateurs feel compelled to spell out that the Zinfandel on the wine list is red.
In view of the popularity of White Zin and other, similar "blush" wines, are wine lovers who disdain this pink, low-acid and sweetish style merely being snobs? Well, not exactly. With apologies to anyone in the audience who enjoys a glass of "blush" - and there are millions of fans, particularly among those who haven't acquired a taste for the dry, acidic and sometimes astringent style of traditional table wines - the problem isn't entirely with the style. It's certainly possible to make a quality pink wine from white grapes, a crisp table wine with clean, true fruit flavor and snappy, food-friendly structure. It's done all the time in Provence and spottily elsewhere around the world, and such wines don't even have to be bone-dry.
In practice, though, with blush wine as with so many other consumer products, the marketplace - particularly industrial producers - seems to see no reason to make a smart version when a dumbed-down one will sell.
That's today's story, and I'm sticking to it. If I want a pink wine, I'll drink a Provence rosé or a dry rosé of similar quality and style from California, Australia, Italy or Spain. And if I want Zinfandel, I'm drinking the real thing. Like today's featured wine, for instance, from my old pal and recent Rhone Valley traveling companion, Erich Russell of Rabbit Ridge ...
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Rabbit Ridge 2002 Paso Robles Westside Zinfandel ($17.99)
This is a clear, dark ruby wine with a reddish-violet edge. A blackberry cordial aroma is characteristic of high-alcohol Zin, with whiffs of herbs and a hint of green peppercorn to add nuance on the nose and palate. It's big and warm, mouth-filling and jammy, but it admirably carries its high-octane 14.8% alcohol on a sturdy structure of ripe mixed-berry fruit and snappy acidity. (Sept. 25, 2005)
FOOD MATCH: Next to a char-grilled rare steak, it's hard to imagine a better match with a lusty Zin than chili ... I went with a Midwestern-style recipe but fired it up with plenty of Tex-Mex spice. (See this coming Thursday's 30 Second Wine Advisor FoodLetter for the recipe.)
VALUE: This price is more than fair for a quality Zin in today's marketplace, but you may be able to find it for less, as the winery suggested retail is a couple of bucks below what I paid locally.
WHEN TO DRINK: I'm of the school that prefers to drink Zin relatively young while it's fruity and fresh, but you don't need to worry about losing this powerhouse if you hold it for a year or two.
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:
California Wine Club:
A Sinfully Delicious Napa Valley double red!
A Sinfully Delicious Napa Valley double red is this month's selection at the California Wine Club. Cuvaison's 2001 Pinot Noir has garnered several high ratings. 89 points, Wine Enthusiast (July 2003): "... light, silky, easy tannins and smoky flavors of cherry, raspberry, tangerine peel and rose hip tea..."
It is paired with Seven Sinners 2002 Incahoots Syrah. "Wine of the Week," St. Petersburg Times (April, 2005) : "... remarkably smooth, a bowl of black cherries you can drink... peppery hints of earth, leather and spice..."
Both just $32.95 plus shipping. Call California Wine Club, 1-800-777-4443, or visit
Wine Lovers' Voting Booth: What do you keep in your wine cellar?
Here's an offbeat question: Are wine cellars only for wine? We thought it would be fun to find out just what strange items our readers do stash (along with wine) in the cellar or wine rack, as the Wine Lovers' Voting Booth asks, "What do you keep in your wine cellar (besides wine)?"
To cast your ballot, click to the Voting Booth,
Then, if you'd like to talk more about your preference (and I hope you will), join in a discussion on this topic in the Wine Lovers' Discussion Group:
This week on WineLoversPage.com
Here are links to some of our recently published articles that I think you'll enjoy:
Bucko's Wine Reports: Autumn 2005 releases
Wine Lovers' Discussion Group: Plastic bottles
Last Week's Wine Advisor Index
The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns:
2003 Valpolicella (Sept. 23, 2005)
Thoughts on vintage (Sept. 21, 2005)
Offbeat grapes and wines - Ruché (Sept. 19, 2005)
Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:
Wine Advisor FoodLetter: "Chinese" without a cookbook (Sept. 22, 2005)
Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:
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Monday, Sept. 26, 2005