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A Zinfandel for Memorial Day

As Memorial Day weekend approaches in the U.S., let's pull the cork from a Zinfandel, a wine that is invariably identified with the United States although its ancestors came from Europe, just as did most of ours.

Probably a brother of the Italian Primitivo and a cousin of the Croatian Plavac Mali, Zin's progenitor is still unknown, although it seems all but certain that it originally grew in Eastern Europe and most likely in the Balkans.

Zinfandel ("Zin" for short) makes a great match with summer fare. It shows its best with char-grilled meats, from sausages and burgers to sizzling steaks; but it also pairs well with fried chicken or even pizza. I'm talking about RED Zinfandel, of course, not the simple, slightly sweet White Zinfandel that's made by squeezing Zinfandel grapes but then removing the dark skins before they have had time to impart more than a blush of pink color to the juice.

This one's fruity and fun, a big and brawny Zin that - unlike some of its fancier brethren - hasn't escalated to the $20-plus range.

Schuetz Oles 1999 "SO ZIN" California Zinfandel ($11.99)
Dark reddish-purple with a day-glo bright edge, it breathes ripe blackberry and raspberry aromas, full and fresh, showing the classic berry character of Zin. Big and full mixed-berry fruit flavors are juicy and strong, with 14.3 percent alcohol adding a bit of heat; but the wine's lush, exuberant fruit keeps things in balance. (May 23, 2001)

FOOD MATCH: Despite my own advice above, we went with an ethnic option this time, pairing the big, fruity Zin with a mildly spicy Indian chicken tikka masala.

Express Notes:

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Friday, May 25, 2001
Copyright 2001 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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