Pink Version of Zinfandel
White Zinfandel is a relative newcomer to the world of wine. That's not to say the (red) zinfandel grape is new. Bottles of wine were first labelled with the name "Zinfandel" as far back as the 1880s in California. First, in the 1980s red wine was touted as having medicinal effects and a red wine boom hit the US. California started planting zinfandel by the county, because it grew so well in that state. Then white wine rose in popularity, and the wineries with acres of zinfandel grape planted wondered if they could make a wine out of it. Thus white zinfandel was born.
In essence, to make a white zinfandel the winmaker peels the red skins off the red zinfandel grapes. Without those skins, the resulting wine is light in color, sweet in flavor and without the harsh / rich flavors found in red wines. This is how blush wines are made.
"One out of every ten bottles of table wine opened in America is white zinfandel." -- Sutter Home
White zinfandel is a pale-rose wine colored that's very sweet. It has gained immensely in popularity since the 1980s, and sadly it is often looked down on by "real wine drinkers" because of its youth and sweetness. This is sad because every wine has its place in the grand palate of flavors. Yes, white zinfandel is light and sweet. But this is perfect in some situations - say a hot summer day with a crisp fruit salad. It's also a great way for non-wine-drinkers to get used to the flavors in wine, without being put off by a heavily tannic monster wine.
Beringer Vineyards is the most popular producer of white zinfandel. White zinfandel is often a wine that new wine drinkers will "enter into wine drinking" with. A society that trains people to love super-sweet soda and Hi-C creates adults that have very sweet taste buds. White zinfandel is a way to slowly retrain those palates to appreciate the dryer flavors.
White zinfandel is delicious with cream-based-sauce with pasta, with fish, pork, and other "lighter" meals. It tends to have citrusy and light flavors - orange, vanilla, strawberry, raspberry, cherry. In addition, new white zinfandels have fruit juices added to them right before bottling to create new flavored versions.
White zinfandel should be drunk at around 54F which is much warmer than fridge temperature (around 35F). A too-cold wine hides all of its flavors. It's like eating a frozen pizza in its frozen state vs nice and warm. Let your white zinfandel warm up a bit if you keep it in the fridge before drinking it, so you can appreciate those gentle flavors it has in it. White zinfandel is NOT an aging wine and should be drunk within 6 months.
NOTE: I continue to get email from a few "experienced" wine drinkers who insist that white zinfandel is "not good for anything". I find that point of view very unencompassing. Yes, some wines go well with filet mignon. Other wines go well with shrimp salad. There is no one wine that goes well with everything. White zinfandel is a light, refreshing wine that is perfect for many light summer dishes. There is nothing inherently "bad" about white zinfandel, any more than there is anything "wrong" with other rose and blush wines including blush Champagne. These are simply one style of wine of hundreds that has its place in the vast wine world! The more we can expand our horizons, the more we can enjoy and appreciate each type of wine for what it has to offer.
Yes, white zinfandel can be sweet - so can a chocolate cake. Hopefully those wine drinkers would not ban all chocolate cakes from our menus solely because the desserts are on the sweet side :)
red zinfandel information
All content on the WineIntro website is personally written by author and wine enthusiast Lisa Shea. WineIntro explores the delicious variety and beautiful history which makes up our world of wine! Lisa loves supporting local wineries and encouraging people to drink whatever they like. We all have different taste buds, and that makes our world wonderful. Always drink responsibly.