Often overlooked and dismissed as being overly jammy, a new wave of Zinfandel wine is deserving of praise. Check out some of these food and wine pairings to make the most out of your bottle of Zinfandel.
How to Pair Zinfandel
by Matthew Lorman
Often overlooked and dismissed as being overly jammy, a new wave of Zinfandel is deserving of praise. Zinfandel can be made into a variety of different styles from the bold and powerful to the restrained and fresh. Check out some of these food and wine pairings to make the most out of your bottle of Zinfandel.
Big and Bold
Zinfandel thrives in warm climates, making a spiritual home for itself in the many vineyards of California. As the grapes mature, flavors and sugars develop and result in a wine with bold flavors such as cherry, plum, and licorice. Due to the intense sun throughout the growing season, the grapes start to shrivel before harvest. This results in a wine with concentrated jammy flavors, often with notes reminiscent of dates, dried figs, and raisins. This concentration of flavor might also come from old vines. In California, there are many producers that source their grapes from old vines. These old vines produce less fruit compared to their younger counterparts. However the fruit that they do produce is often more flavorful and packed with flavors thanks to the lower yields. These wines pair well with anything grilled. Light up the grill and throw on some steaks. Bonus points if you smother it in blue cheese! Zinfandel also pairs well with barbecue classics like Carolina pulled pork and Texas smoked brisket. The slight sweetness from the sauce compliments the fruitiness of the wine quite nicely.
Fresh and Light
Zinfandel is capable of producing lighter styles of wines that are worlds away from the jammy stereotype Zinfandel often is thought to be. These fresher versions are lower in alcohol, and have fresher and brighter fruit notes of cherry, plum, citrus, and peach. Because of the lower alcohol content, these wines can be paired with slightly spicy foods like chicken enchiladas or a mild vindaloo curry. The fruitiness of these wines help tame the heat from the spice without the burning sensation caused by high alcohol wines.
Don't Forget About Primitivo!
Zinfandel in Italy is known as Primitivo. Researchers found that these grapes share the same genetic code, but due to the different areas they are grown, the grapes produce wine with distinct characteristics. Primitivo tends to have a rustic charm, with higher levels of tannin and more earthiness. This makes for an extremely food-friendly wine that can go with a variety of Italian dishes. Try it out with a plate of roasted Italian sausage and fennel, pasta alla norma, or eggplant parmesan.
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