The grape is also known as Crljenak Kastelanski in its native Croatia and as primitivo in southern Italy.
Zinfandel is known for its rich, dark purple skin, medium to high tannin levels, high alcohol content, and medium acidity. While the red wine tends to be medium-bodied and medium dry, it is bursting with flavors and aromas of jam, raspberry, blackberry, cherry, plums, cinnamon, black pepper, and licorice all wrapped around various intensities of oak.
Think curry spice or BBQ. Since Zinfandel leans on the sweeter side of red wine, it’s a great pairing partner with spiced barbecue dishes and curry. Zinfandel pairs well with Moroccan and Turkish spices that embellish the wine’s cinnamon-spice subtleties. The hearty, bold flavors in Zinfandel make it a natural companion for the rich and flavorful world of BBQ. Try ribs, grilled chicken, roast lamb, pulled pork, pork chops, blackened salmon, bacon-wrapped tenderloin, game meats, and burgers.
Certain California regions are regarded as "exceptional" for Zinfandel, each with identifiable flavor characteristics:
Sonoma county has a Zinfandel-producing land area second only to that of San Joaquin County. The county contains the warm Dry Creek Valley AVA, known for its juicy Zinfandel with bright fruit, balanced acidity and notes of blackberry, anise and pepper. Dry Creek Valley produces Zinfandel in a variety of styles ranging from the high-alcohol Amador style to balanced, spicy wines. 2016 Hartford - Zinfandel Sonoma Dina′s Vineyard, 2016 Day - Zinfandel Dry Creek Grist Vineyard
San Luis Obispo, particularly the Paso Robles AVA with its hot days and cool maritime evenings, produces Zinfandel known for being soft and round. 2017 Linne Calodo - Zinfandel Paso Robles Problem Child
While the Napa Valley AVA is known primarily for its Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah, Napa also produces Zinfandel wines described as plummy and intense, tasting of red berry fruits with cedar and vanilla. Zinfandel in Napa tends to be made in a claret style like red Bordeaux. 2017 Fontanella Family - Zinfandel Napa
The Russian River Valley generally produces well during warm vintages. Otherwise, the grapes do not fully ripen, leaving the wines with excessive acidity. The area has mostly "old vine" Zinfandel, characterized as spicy and somewhat lower in alcohol than Zinfandel from other regions.
Lodi has some of the oldest Zinfandel vines in California. While often used for White Zinfandel production, in the red style, Lodi Zinfandels have a reputation for being juicy and approachable. 2017 Rubus Zinfandel Old Vines Lodi