Zinfandel Grape Varietal Definition

By Gayot Editors

Real Zinfandel is red, a fact many wine drinkers are rediscovering now that the trend for “white” Zinfandel has stabilized. “Peppery,” “briary,” “brawny” and “chewy” are only a few of the adjectives used to describe this mouth-filling wine. It has a real zest for matching up with tomato-based pasta dishes.

It is one varietal that the first Italian winemakers propagated and cultivated when they came to California. Though it was previously thought to be the Italian primitivo and the Croatian plavac mali grape, DNA profiling has linked the varietal to crljenak kastelanski — also from Croatia — and, in fact, the father of plavac mali.

Today, it’s a grape varietal that is almost unique to California. Vintners in Napa, Sonoma and Amador seem to do the best job with it. Other states like Arizona, New Mexico and Texas are trying as well. It has been planted in other world regions more recently.