The Zinfindel grape is in my opinion one of the most misunderstood grapes. Many of you when you read the words Zinfindel immediately imagined a blush not dry (I hate to say sweeter wine) wine. Yes, those blush wines are available and made from the zinfandel grape, just with limited skin contact and shorter fermentation periods to keep residual sugar.
But those wines do not do the grape justice. Zinfindels make great dry, medium to full bodied red wine with nice tannins that don’t overpower the wine. They are usually pretty high in alcohol, so they pack a bit of punch. They have nice strong black fruit flavours, which are often described as jammy and red licorice flavours. So, it can give you the perception of a sweeter wine but it is dry.
Zinfindel’s are one of my favorite wines just to enjoy on its own. Sure, you can pair it with food and with the softer (medium) tannins, it can pair nicely with a variety of different foods; meats, cheeses, moderately spiced food, and it can hold up to some sweetness in foods. But with the jammy fruit flavors and licorice notes it is a great after dinner drink that will help with that sugar craving without the sugar. In my “dry is best” opinion that is. My wine rack is always stocked with a good Zin.
Zinfindels are also known as Primitivo and are most commonly grown in moderate to high temperatures. They are not widely planted, and are often from old vines, over 100 years old. The two most common regions are Puglia in Southern Italy (known as primitivo) and in California in Sonoma and Lodi area (Lodi is my personal favourite). When you hit the wine store to try out a Zinfandel/Primitivo, check out the Italy & California section.
Once I graduated from Boones wine, I stopped at the White Zinfindel (Blush wine) station, so if you are new to wine, and generally like sweeter wines, then please give the White Zinfindels a go. They are generally cheap and cheerful and great patio sippers. However, if you are growing your wine taste and are dipping your toe into red wine, Zinfindels/Primitivos are a great place to stop. They will satisfy the move from sweeter wines to dry wine because of the fruit sweetness, but the tannins are generally unobtrusive so a good flavorful red wine that I think everyone should love. If you love red wine, still give Zinfindels a go. I have focused on the fruit flavours but there is also often oak notes and maturity notes on these and can have quite complex flavour profiles.
I hope you enjoy your journey of discovery of the wonderful grape that is Zinfandel/Primitivo!