Wine isn’t complicated!! And its enjoyment doesn’t belong to some elite club (even though some folks try to make it that way by employing incomprehensible jargon and let’s face it, an approach that is, well, snooty).
First and foremost, wine is just a beverage and it’s a beverage that has been part of human culture for thousands of years. For our friends in say Italy, Spain or France, wine is as much a part of everyday life as hamburgers are here in the U.S.
Since I brought up hamburgers, why not continue our wine journey with a wine that used to be considered a “hamburger wine” but has since graduated to a more elevated position…Zinfandel…once known as the mystery grape. It was so called because it appeared to be a uniquely American grape and no one knew how it got here or what other grapes it was related to.
Fast forward to the world of DNA sequencing and we now know it had its origins in Croatia as a grape known as Tribidrag and is also the same as an Italian variety known as Primitivo. You may see reference on a wine list to Primitivo even here in the U.S. (e.g. at Cuvée Ray) but just think of it as good old Zin.
Zin is also one of the most misunderstood wines because of its association with “white” Zinfandel, the slightly sweet pink version of Zinfandel that sold like hotcakes some years ago. At that time, Zinfandel was a grape variety that was literally dying on the vine as wine drinkers were awakening to the world of more international varieties such as Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon and up to that point, Zinfandel was almost unheard of.
But the instant popularity of white Zin made Zin a profitable grape which per$uaded vineyard owners not to pull up their Zin vines in favor of the then up and coming varieties like Chardonnay and Cabernet. With the passing of the white Zin craze, folks began exploring the red version of Zin and its popularity and quality grew in leaps and bounds. BTW, nothing mysterious about why the same wine could be pink and red. The color is in the skin of the grape not the flesh or juice and if you leave the juice in contact with the skin for just a short period of time, it comes out pink… if you leave it in contact longer it comes out red…and the wine also picks up more flavors and the mouth drying effect of the skins called tannins).
So, let’s talk Zin. No longer the low wine man on the totem pole, some California Zins are highly coveted and truly spectacular. Yet many Zins are still some of the few true relative bargains left in the world of wonderful red wines having a great price to quality ratio (something I am always looking for in a wine). And Zin is a great food wine pairing nicely with a variety of foods.
Although as with most wines, there are numerous styles of Zinfandel, it is often fruit forward, showing luscious ripe black fruit and smokiness that comes from the oak barrels in which it is aged and often higher in alcohol than other wines. Zin is a perfect accompaniment to, well, yes, hamburgers as well as grilled meats and foods with a bit of spice.
Mystery solved. Yum!!
(week of 9/17/2018)
Mention the phrase “Wine is like a Hamburger” to let your server know that you have read this week’s Cuvée Ray: Uncorked and get 10% off this week’s Cuvée Ray: Uncorked Flight of the Week