Zinfandel, A Chameleon of a Wine

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zinfandel1a.jpgLast week I was at an evening engagement here in New York where one of the guests (an Indian bonds trader) extolled the virtues of Zinfandels. It got me thinking about Zinfandels, writes Shiv Singh. What are they like and do they make sense for Indian wine lovers?


The taste of the red Zinfandel like most other red wines depends on the ripeness of the grapes from which it is made. Red berry fruits like raspberry predominate in wines from cooler areas, whereas blackberry, anise and pepper notes are more common in wines made in warmer areas and in wines made from the earlier-ripening Primitivo clone (from Italy). It is planted in over 10 percent of the California vineyards.
Zinfandel vines are quite vigorous and grow best in climates that are warm but not too hot, because grapes may shrivel in hot weather. Zinfandel’s thin-skinned grapes grow in large, tight bunches that are sometimes prone to bunch rot. Red Zinfandel wines have been criticized for being too “hot” (too alcoholic), although modern winemaking techniques have helped make them more approachable.
Zinfandel has delivered not only zesty, berry-fruity reds, but spicy tannic beasts, vin nouveau, and tart, intriguing roses. There have also been soft, simple and sweet blushes, unusual sparklers, dessert and fortified wines, and nearly combustible, highly-alcoholic versions.
Zinfandel wines are known to be chameleon like – you’re never too certain what you’re going to get but they’re sure to entertain. Steven Spurrier rated the Sula 2007 Zinfandel a 15.5, the Vinsura one a 14.5 and the Rennaissance 2007 a 14. I believe that Zinfandels don’t get their credit because they’re often overshadowed by the Cabernets. But the reality is that they’re just as complex, extremely versatile with food (Indian spicy food included) and can be soft and sensual too.

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