Zinfandel is a black-skinned red grape varietal with its origins in Austria. Zinfandel's thin-skinned grapes grow in large, tight bunches that are sometimes prone to bunch rot. The fruit ripens fairly early and produces juice with high sugar content. Zinfandel is the official grape of California and is grown in over ten percent of California vineyards. The grape is widely grown across hot, warm, and cooler regions. Napa Valley, Sonoma County, San Luis Obispo, Alexander Valley, Paso Robles, Amador, Santa Clara Valley, Sloughhouse, and Lodi are notable areas for high quality Zinfandel production in California. Worldwide, Zinfandel is widely grown in Italy, Croatia, and Austria.
Zinfandel is a sturdy vine that grows best in warm to hot climates. The warm weather allows the fruit to ripen quickly and turn their acid into sugars producing a bright big fruit flavor. This ripening process also makes for a higher alcohol wine than most red varietals. The thin skins of the grapes mean that Zinfandel has a medium low tannin structure. The flavor profile of Zinfandel can range from delicate red fruit like raspberry and strawberry to hearty earthy dark fruit like plum and blackberry. Medium bodied Zinfandels are often made in a style that retains the black fruit characteristics and aromas but also have a distinctive spice of black pepper, tar, tobacco, licorice, and oak.
Zinfandel is a hearty wine that pairs with hearty foods. Stews, lamb, beef, sausages, barbecue, turkey, game, pheasant, chili and tomato based pasta dishes all lend themselves nicely to the fruit flavor and mild tannin structure of Zinfandel.