This article was published in The 30 Second Wine Advisor on Monday, Aug. 4, 2008 and can be found at http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor2/tswa20080804.php.
Wine Focus - The styles of Zin
Okay, so you love Zinfandel. But which Zin? Perhaps more than any of the other top grape varieties except Riesling, which appears in dozens of guises, Zinfandel may be made in styles that range from elegant and claret-like to intense, high-alcohol blockbusters.
Not counting the justly maligned White Zinfandel, I can think offhand of three major stylistic categories for Zin. Some of you may be able to come up with more:
1. Historic, classic-style California Zin, actually a rustic "field blend" of Zin with such other usual suspects as Petite Sirah, maybe Carignan and others. The Pedroncelli 2005 Dry Creek Valley Sonoma County "Mother Clone" Zinfandel featured in the July 23, 2008, 30 Second Wine Advisor, could be listed as a modern example of this style; Ridge Geyserville may be one of the most iconic examples.
2. Lighter, "claret-style" Zins with good fruit but lighter body and (relatively) low alcohol. The Peachy Canyon "Incredible Red" featured in my tasting notes below fit into this category for me.
3. The huge, blockbuster-style Zins, ranging upward from 15 percent alcohol, typically fruit bombs and often carrying a style that's reminiscent of berry liqueurs, tend to win high ratings points and are immensely popular with those who like them. More suited in my opinion as a cocktail than a food wine, it's not my favorite style of Zin.
What's more, none of this takes into accunt regional differences in Zinfandels among the Sierra Foothills, Napa, Sonoma, Paso Robles and other distinctive growing areas in California alone.
This month we're looking at Zinfandel as our online Wine Focus project for August, with a particular interest in examining the various styles that have emerged in this variety that came from Croatia to Italy and California and is grown in Australia and elsewhere, but that many now consider one of the most American of grapes.
You're welcome to join the Wine Focus conversations with your comments on any Zin from any zone, and Italian Primitivo - which is genetically identical to Zinfandel - is certainly acceptable as an alternative, especially for those in Europe who may find it hard to get a good selection of Zin.
When you post, it would be interesting to try to place your sample stylistically and discuss how the particular style works for you. Personally, I'm going to be following my usual practice of checking the alcohol content on the label before I buy, and rejecting those in the high-octane range.
To participate in Wine Focus, simply click to
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Peachy Canyon 2006 "Incredible Red" Paso Robles Zinfandel ($11.99)
Consciously chosen as the only Zin under 14% alcohol on my neighborhood wine shop's shelf, this Central Coast Zin is dark ruby in color, with bright reddish-orange glints. Light red-berry aromas are pleasant but surprisingly subtle for a Zin, at least within the first hour after opening, but it does open up well with time, adding richer berry fruit after a couple of hours and even overnight. Good mouthfeel, tart, zingy fruit, definitely styled to go with food, with appropriately strong but not overpowering 13.9% alcohol. Neither an old-fashioned "field blend" nor a modern "blockbuster," it falls closer to the "claret-style" category, a niche that I was afraid had just about disappeared. (July 31, 2008)
FOOD MATCH: Excellent with fresh local lamb chops crusted with pepper and pan-seared.
VALUE: Twelve bucks? Buy it by the case, and doubly so if you find it discounted below this local price, which matches the winery price. But at least at this stage in its evolution, do give it an hour or two before dinner to open up more fully in the decanter or glass.
WHEN TO DRINK: Ready to go now, but its performance under breathing suggests that this is one Zin that might gain a bit with a year or two of careful cellar time.
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This week on WineLoversPage.com
Bucko's Wine Reports: 100 new wines
WineLovers Discussion Group: A "taste scale" for Riesling?
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. Please note that for a small summer break, we've put the FoodLetter on a short-term vacation and are skipping some (but not all) Friday editions.
Tasting Potpourri (July 30, 2008)
Recession busters - making a list (July 28, 2008)
Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:
Wine Advisor Foodletter archive: