A Guide to Zinfandel

Don’t let the snarky little book, The Wine Snob’s Dictionary (2008), put you off. In it, authors David Kamp and David Lynch describe Zinfandel as “the most fetishized varietal this side of Pinot Noir.” In truth, Zinfandel is a wonderful, early ripening grape, and the resulting wine is high in alcohol, and fragrant with intensely spicy, dark fruit. Even Kamp and Lynch come around, admitting, in some rare words of praise, that Californian winemaker Paul Draper, of Ridge Wines, makes elegant and restrained Zins, even if he is to blame for the variety’s cult status.

Draper’s Ridge Geyserville 2006 ($58.95), is worth the splurge. Here, you can taste the work of a gifted winemaker who always blends in Petite Syrah and Carignan to provide structure and balance to his Zin. Note that on the wonderfully informative label, which Draper writes, he very unusually refuses to describe the wine, sensing that this may get in the way of the individual’s experience.

Compare it to Zig Zag Zin Zinfandel 2005, ($18.95), from Mendocino, California. This one has characteristically big, berry fruit, with spicy, perfumed notes on the middle palate that are very satisfying.

Finally, there’s the Angio Archeo Primitivo 2006 ($12.95) from Puglia, which offers a lovely value, and a delicious, tarry and blackberry nose and palate.

Image courtesy of waynemah.

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