The Comprehensive Guide to Zinfandel

5 Reasons to Enjoy a Glass of Wine at the End of the Night

If you love fruity red wines, Zinfandel is the wine for you. This wine is known for its fruity flavor and pairs well with many vegetarian dishes. Despite its name, Zinfandel is not only grown in California but is also made in Italy, where it is called Primitivo. Though it is grown worldwide, the majority of the wine is produced in California and Italy.

Red Zinfandel

The red Zinfandel grape is a robust and dry red wine with high alcohol content and medium to high acidity. Depending on the style, Zinfandel may have a fruity or jammy flavor, with hints of tobacco or oak. Its fruit profile is intense and ripe, with pronounced berry, tobacco, and vanilla aromas and flavors. It is considered the fourth most widely planted grape variety in California.

The most popular style of Zinfandel is a bold, tannin-heavy wine with a full-bodied taste and intense fruit flavors. Its ripe grapes give it a syrupy texture, and its fruity flavor usually includes blackberry and plum. Almost always made in the U.S., this type of wine is aged in French or American oak, which lends a spicy flavor. However, a glass of bold red Zinfandel should be served at room temperature to enhance its fruity character and make it easier to drink.

Primitivo Zinfandel

Primitivo may seem confusing, but it also refers to the grape. Primitivo and Zinfandel are named after grape varieties grown in the same region. The distinction between these two grapes only became official in 1999, when Italian exporters were allowed to label their Primitivo wines like Zinfandel. Its bold, berry-like bouquet is typically accompanied by sweet spice and a savory balsamic undertone. Its mouth-watering flavors are similar to famous red Zinfandels from California.

The first grapes used to produce wine came from the border between Asia and Europe, where they spread to the sunny areas. The climate of these regions was perfect for growing flavor-packed grapes. In the nineteenth century, Croatian winemakers began cultivating zinfandel-related grapes, and a century later, the wine was sold under the name Primitivo in Italy. Eventually, Italian winemakers began to produce Primitivo, the Italian counterpart of American Zinfandel.


Zinfandel is one of the first wines that come to mind when imagining food and wine pairings. Its light, fruity character pairs well with many foods, including creamy sauces, cheeses, grilled chicken, and pasta dishes. The wine also pairs well with spicy foods. Dark, semi-sweet chocolates are excellent pairings, as their spicy inclusions complement the wine’s aroma. Here are some suggestions:

Beef and grilled meats: Almost any type of beef pairs beautifully with this light, fruity wine. Grilled rib-eye steak, filet mignon, or New York strip steak are excellent matches. Those with a thicker cut of meat should choose a bold-flavored Zinfandel. Pairings with cheese are less common but can be made by simply serving aged cheddar or provolone with your heart.


While the grape is widely believed to be Italian, the origins of Zinfandel are in Croatia. According to Cliff Rames, sommelier and founder of Wines of Croatia, the grape is descendant of two different Croatian grapes. Tribidrag and Crljenak Kaštelanski grapes have been grown in Croatia since the 1500s. Despite the differences in climate, the grapes are closely related.

The Tribidrag grape arrived in Boston in 1829. It had been imported by the Habsburg Monarchy, which controlled Dalmatian territories. Gibbs, a horticulturist, planted these vines on Long Island and received grapes from Schonbrunn and other European locations. In 1830, William Robert Prince published a grape description known as “Black Zinfardel from Hungary.” Webster suggests that the name Zinfandel is a type of white grape native to Austria’s Thermenregion.

After proving that Zinfandel could grow well in California’s Central Valley, Trinchero experimented with a different method, draining the grape juice from the vats. He tried to sell the dry wine under the name of Oeil de Perdrix, a Swiss wine made by the Saignee method. But after the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms demanded an English translation, Trinchero began marketing it under the name “White Zinfandel.” This success was short-lived.