In celebration of National Zinfandel Day, we asked Young’s import specialist and wine expert, Tyson Bernhardt, to give us a little insight into the allure of Zinfandel. Strolling through the wine isle can be a daunting task for some. With the holidays around the corner, consider pairing the perfect Zinfandel with your meal.
Why choose Zinfandel?
- “With decent acidity and a rather fruit-forward nature, it’s easy to pair a bottle of Zinfandel with a wide variety of foods, similar to a California pinot noir.
- Zinfandel pairs well with spicy food!
- Due to its low quantity of tannins, Zin also works great as a cocktail wine. You can have a glass or two and not be pleading with your table to finally order that charcuterie board.
- You can find high quality Zinfandels at a lower price point, and in an incredibly wide variety of styles – including white Zinfandel.”
Where did Zinfandel get its start?
“It’s related to Primitivo from Puglia, and likely came over to California with missionaries and homesteaders as westward expansion happened in the 1850s. However, its continued success and popularity can be attributed to two wine pioneers: Paul Draper (Ridge Vineyards) and Bob Trinchero. Both put red Zinfandel and white Zinfandel on the map. It’s since garnered strength as Helen Turley and Randall Johnson from Hess Collection have pushed it to new heights. While you see many more red Zinfandel labels, white Zinfandel (still) outsells red Zinfandel 6 to 1, which is wild to me. All that said, it’s uniquely American.”
Wait – white Zinfandel outsells red?
“Yes! It’s crazy! Sutter Home white Zinfandel still sells millions of cases a year. It’s ubiquitous, especially in the Midwest. In an earlier life, when I waited tables, every restaurant had it back in the cooler. Not necessarily on the wine list, but we still had it available for special requests. And even still – probably every week – we had a request for some white Zin. If you want to hear some good stories, find some guys that worked in the wine/restaurant industry in the 80s, and ask them what they remember about Sutter Home coming into the market.”
How do I know if it’s serious Zinfandel or not?
“Pay close attention to the alcohol and elevation. The lower percentage generally will steer you toward a wine that isn’t a full jam jar, and the higher elevation will give you some structure and acidity. As for the region – it’s up to you. I love to stick with a producer over a region or vintage on this one, because the winemakers that love it *really* love it, and do some special things with it.”
Tyson Bernhardt is a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) and a Certified Sake Professional (CSP). Tyson has been with Young’s Market Company since 2011 and is based in Seattle, Washington, where he has been contributing to growing Young’s imported wine business for The Estates Group as an import specialist. Tyson grew up in Eastern Washington and attended college at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. When he’s not representing Young’s fine wine supplier partners, he enjoys skiing, golf and watching cartoons while eating fried chicken.