Zinfandel is one of those wines that brings much confusion and debate to the table. As recently as 10 years ago, if someone had asked me to recommend a good Zinfandel, I would begin listing off some quality White Zinfandels. However, in recent years, as knowledge of wines has increased and tastes have refined, I find myself thinking of red Zinfandel first. The blush wine known has White Zinfandel had a spike in popularity in the 1980’s and early 1990’s. It was pretty to look at, quite sweet, low in alcohol, and easy to drink. It had a reputation in the wine community, as the wine that people who didn’t like wine chose to drink. Or it was a starter wine — something drinkers would enjoy before they graduated to different, more complex wines. It was not until the fine wine boom of the 1990’s, that red Zinfandel became a respected, yet much debated varietal. It’s one of two very different wines produced from the same grape.
The origin of Zinfandel was never truly known. Until somewhat recently, it was considered a California original. There were similar grapes grown in Italy and Hungary, but the true origins of the Zinfandel grape have recently been discovered, and it can now be traced back to Croatia. Zinfandel is still widely recognized as an American wine, as it is produced in many different regions across the United States. It accounts for approximately 10% of grapes grown in California vineyards.
Zinfandel first became popular in the late 1800’s, and by the end of the 19th century, it was the most widely grown varietal in California. Many of the vines were ripped up and destroyed during prohibition during the 1920’s, but those vines that remained were put to use by home winemakers. (Home wine making often slipped through the cracks during prohibition.) After prohibition ended and vineyards were discovered again, other wines jumped to the forefront and red Zinfandel faded into obscurity, as there was a lack of quality wine making grapes. Through the years however,some vintners continued to grow these grapes and it was not until the 1970’s that these “old vines” were re-discovered. These grapes are now treasured for their production of quality red wines, not just their blush counterpart.
St. Francis Vineyard considers “old vines” as those that are between 60 and 120 years old, known for their low fruit yield, but intense highly concentrated flavor. Opening the bottle you get intense aromas of pepper, spice, and a cigar box. Letting this wine breathe for a while will only intensify the fruit forward flavor of black cherry, vanilla, and black licorice. It has a long, earthy, and spicy finish. This wine is a perfect companion to most foods. Whether it’s a barbecue, pizza, or just some hearty cheeses, this Zinfandel is ideal.