Zinfandel Wine

Zinfandel (or "Zin", as it is affectionately known in the United States) is a dark-skinned red wine grape variety widely cultivated in California. It arrived in the Americas from Europe in the early years of the 19th Century, and was an immediate success in both Napa and Sonoma counties, which remain its strongholds today.

After 30 years of discussion and disagreements (including legal intervention by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms), DNA research carried out by Carole Meredith of the University of California at Davis from the early 1990s to 2002 (known as the Zinquest) confirmed that Zinfandel is identical to Italy's Primitivo. But although this research closed the debate over whether Zinfandel is Primitivo, it opened up an even older chapter of the variety's history.

Zinfandel Grapes

We know that Primitivo arrived in Italy via Croatia, where it was known by various names including Tribidrag and Crljenak Kastelanski. But the question of whether Zinfandel arrived in the U.S. from Italy or via another route remains unanswered. So the question is now: is American Zinfandel based on Primitivo cuttings, or Tribidrag, or both? Another unsolved mystery is the linguistic origin of the word Zinfandel.

Zinfandel has been used to make various wine styles since it arrived in the USA, including dry and sweet red wines and the famous White Zinfandel blush, created to cater for a white wine-drinking American consumer base of the 1970s. The arrival of this new wine style in the early 1970s led to an explosion of Zinfandel plantings – perhaps ironic given that the style of wine was created to find a use for the swathes of underused Zinfandel vines already in existence.

By the 1990s the popularity of dry red Zinfandel had given these plantings a new raison d'etre, although they were still being used to generate many millions of liters of sweet pink blush every year. Today, red Zinfandel has risen to become the signature wine of the U.S., not due to the quality of wine it produces, but because it is as close to an "American" variety as vinifera vines get. The discovery that it was an Italian variety in disguise led to mixed reactions, including pride at the association with a prestigious wine nation, but also a certain uneasiness that Zinfandel had lost some of its American individuality.

Outside the U.S., the variety is grown in South Africa and Australia, where it has been bottled as both Zinfandel and Primitivo. It hasn't acquired any particular significance in either of these countries – more a product of a few key producers than an independent grape variety. Also, as Australia has a developed a strong tradition in Shiraz, there is little motivation to bring in and develop a similar variety to compete with it. The Cape Mentelle winery of Margaret River has taken up the reins as an Australian pioneer of Zinfandel.

During the 1970s, various Italian producers began labeling their Primitivo wines as Zinfandel, to cash in on Zinfandel's popularity in the U.S. market. Now, the reverse is happening; as Primitivo's star rises once again in Italy (most notably in Manduria), a number of Californian vineyards (mostly those of Italian heritage) now label their Zinfandel wines as Primitivo.

Almost unaffected by the politics and wranglings between Italy and the U.S., the winemakers of Croatia have carried on producing deeply colored, full-bodied red wines from their Crljenak Kastelanski and Tribidrag grapes. Interest in these wines has naturally increased following the Primitivo/Zinfandel debate, so many of them are now available in various countries around the world.

Synonyms include: Primitivo, Crljenak Kastelanski, Pribidrag, Tribidrag, Kratosija.

Food matches for Zinfandel include:

  • Puglian spit-roasted lamb
  • East Texas-style barbecue
  • Dark chocolate cake

Enjoy this video about Zinfandel wine...

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Most Popular Zinfandel Wine

Based on search frequency, updated monthly
Wine Name
Region
Popularity
Score
Avg Price
Alexander Valley Vineyards Wetzel Family Estate Redemption Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, USA Dry Creek Valley 267th 87 $19
Alexander Valley Vineyards Wetzel Famliy Estate Sin Zin Zinfandel, Alexander Valley, USA Alexander Valley 367th 86 $18
Turley Wine Cellars Juvenile Zinfandel, California, USA California 1,821st 90 $31
Sula Vineyards Zinfandel, Nashik, India Nashik 2,048th 84 $12
The Prisoner Wine Co. 'Saldo' Zinfandel, California, USA California 2,290th 89 $30
Seghesio Family Vineyards Zinfandel, Sonoma County, USA Sonoma County 2,400th 89 $23
Venge Vineyards Scout's Honor Proprietary Red, Napa Valley, USA Napa Valley 2,940th 90 $40
Caymus Vineyards Zinfandel, Napa Valley, USA Napa Valley 2,996th 91 $56
Turley Wine Cellars Old Vines Zinfandel, California, USA California 3,028th 90 $37
Black Saint Peter Old Vine Zinfandel, Lodi, USA Lodi 3,330th 86 $15
Marietta Cellars 'Roman' Estate Grown Zinfandel, North Coast, USA North Coast 3,384th 89 $21
A. Rafanelli Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, USA Dry Creek Valley 3,765th 91 $63
Ridge Vineyards Pagani Ranch Zinfandel, Sonoma Valley, USA Sonoma Valley 3,980th 91 $40
Rombauer Vineyards Zinfandel, Napa Valley, USA Napa Valley 4,237th 89 $37
Martinelli Giuseppe & Luisa Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, USA Russian River Valley 4,348th 92 $60
Bedrock Wine Co. Old Vine Zinfandel, Sonoma Valley, USA Sonoma Valley 4,416th 90 $27
Grande Alberone Zinfandel, Italy Vino da Tavola 4,485th 86 $14
Beringer Vineyards White Zinfandel, California, USA California 4,629th 81 $7
Robert Biale Vineyards Black Chicken Zinfandel, Napa Valley, USA Napa Valley 4,665th 90 $49
Ridge Vineyards East Bench Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, USA Dry Creek Valley 4,878th 90 $33
Seven Deadly Wines 'The Seven Deadly Zins' Zinfandel, Lodi, USA Lodi 4,995th 87 $15
Martinelli Jackass Hill Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, USA Russian River Valley 4,995th 95 $134
1000 Stories Bourbon Barrel Aged Zinfandel, Mendocino County, USA Mendocino County 5,097th 87 $16
Turley Wine Cellars Hayne Vineyard Zinfandel, Napa Valley, USA Napa Valley 5,482nd 93 $105
Saini Vineyards Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, USA Dry Creek Valley 5,791st 86 $30
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To see how Wine-Searcher uses average pricing and professional wine critic scores on this page, please see Average Wine Prices and Wine Scores. To find out about popularity, please see Wine Ranks.
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