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Wine A - Z: White Zinfandel, and other "white" reds

Some wine drinkers out there believe that zinfandel grapes are white wine grapes. Admittedly, wine marketers have done their job very well, making White Zin, as it is lovingly referred to, rank among the top five wines among consumers. When those White Zin drinkers come to Northern California and encounter red zinfandel wines, they are surprised to learn that zinfandel grapes actually come in red!

The birth of White Zin can is most often attributed to Sutter Home Winery in St. Helena in the early 1970's. In actuality, White Zin is just another rose - a pink wine made from red wine grapes. What sets it apart from other roses is the spotlight it puts on the zinfandel grape. Most roses do not tell what variety of grape is used, relying instead on the consumer knowing what varietals grow in whatever region the rose is from (especially true of European roses.). You may find White Merlot, White Pinot Noir, White Sangiovese, or any other White Fill-in-the-varietal Wines, but none other has been embraced like White Zinfandel.

The impact of White Zinfandel shows among the "older" generation of wine drinkers. For many, it was their starter wine. It is an easy to drink, light pink, fruity and often sweet wine. For a while, in the 1970's and 1980's, White Zinfandel was the go to wine. As consumers discovered a myriad of other wines and wine styles, White Zinfandel was pushed aside, and many now refer to it as "my mother's wine," or "old ladies" wine. Dry roses are attempting to reach a new market, as a younger generation of wine drinkers is emerging.

In Lodi and Amador county, where zinfandel is abundant, White Zinfandel is rarely seen in tasting rooms. The focus on true red zinfandel, and very often, single-vineyard sourced zinfandels. Even Napa Valley is showcasing their red zinfandel wines brilliantly. If you are a White Zinfandel fan, fear not - White Zinfandel will still be a Sutter Home staple. There will always be an audience for a light, chilled, fruity wine.

To be clear - White zinfandel is not a varietal of wine grape. It is a style of wine made from the zinfandel grape. However, there exist zinfandel vineyards planted for the express purpose of being made into White Zin. Next time someone pours you a glass of pink wine, be brave and give a try. It may or may not be White Zinfandel, but it will almost always be chilled and fruity, with varying levels of sweetness. As Shakespeare's Juliet said, "That which we call a rose by any other name...." And so it is with White Zinfandel.

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