What is Zinfandel Wine?

Red Zinfandel is a black and blue skinned grape variety that’s most notably grown and incredibly popular within the United States.

In the glass, this grape tends to adhere to lighter-bodied characteristics while simultaneously maintaining big flavors. This is largely due to Zin’s elevated acidic content and classically high alcohol content (up to 17% in some cases).

These two factors can make Zinfandel feel more medium bodied on the palate.

This grape variety is packed with flavors resembling ripe red fruit – including raspberry, raisin, cranberry, cassis and plum. These jammy fruit flavors are often backed with distinct black pepper spice, tobacco, dry barnyard door and coffee.

While these are the generalities, Zinfandel flavors can vary and alcohol content is an influential ingredient.

Depending on ripeness at the time of harvest, it’s believed that cooler climate Zins adhere to more red fruit flavors while warmer climate varietal wines contain more black fruit and pepper nuances.

The United States holds over 70% of Zinfandel acreage world-wide, with Italy (around 27%) and various locations throughout Australia, South Africa and Mexico holding the remainder.

White Zinfandel is Incredibly Popular

While Red Zinfandel remains the most popular style world-wide, White Zinfandel, an off dry rosé made in the United States – is also flying off the shelves.

Zinfandel has a Croatian Cousin

Genetically alike in many ways to the Primitivo grape – an old world variety native to Croatia and now most famous in Apulia, Italy – Zinfandel clusters hold larger grapes and also ripen less evenly than Primitivo.

Calories in Zinfandel Wine

There are between 130 and 135 calories in one five ounce glass of Zinfandel. The exact caloric content is influenced mainly by ripeness of the grape at time of harvest.

Since these grapes have a high sugar content, ultimately leading to a high alcohol content, many calories are a result of the alcohol itself. Technological advances in winemaking are helping to curb the alcoholic “heat” and make Zinfandel’s more approachable.

Learn About These Other Wine Grape Varieties

Chenin Blanc
Petit Verdot
Pinot Grigio
Pinot Meunier

Written By Greig Santos-Buch

Greig Santos-Buch is a Co-Founder at Winetraveler.com and a WSET 2 Merit wine writer. He works with several brands focusing on experiential and immersive-style travel. In his spare time, you can find him hiking with a bottle of Cabernet Franc in his backpack or scuba diving trying to talk a reef shark into trying Swiss wine.

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Zinfandel Wine Profile & Food Pairings


Red & Black (Fig, Raspberry, Blackberry, Cassis, Raisin, Cherry, Plum, Cranberry Jam)

Earth & Mineral Notes:

Underbrush, Red Clay Minerals, Dry Herbs

Additional Complexities

Smoke, Black Pepper, Cacao, Cinnamon, Oak, Tobacco, Mushroom, Tumbleweed

Body Medium

Sugar Dry, Off-Dry

Tannins Medium

Alcohol High (13.5%-17.0% ABV)

Finish Bright, Medium

Dark Chocolate

If you're snacking and drinking Zinfandel, try it with dark chocolate. The tobacco, acid and raspberry jam accent it very nicely. Plus, you're getting resveratrol from the Zin and additional antioxidants from the chocolate.

Pork, Poultry, Hamburgers & Lamb

Cuban-styled Lechon, barbecue chicken, roasted duck, lamb or pulled pork will bring out the spicy and savory flavors of warmer-terroired Zin's. Conversely, I think the red jammy fruit in cooler climate Zin's pairs well with grilled redfish and blue cheese burgers.

Tomato Based Pasta

For other pairings, try these wines with any tomato based pasta.  Don't be afraid to utilize your spice cabinet when it comes to reds. These wines contain plenty of dry herb and cracked pepper flavors.

Mexican & Indian Food

Spicy or savory Mexican and Indian plates pair nicely with red Zinfandel. Make sure you don't use any bland vegetables. Instead try grilled red bell pepper or seared onion, cilantro and tomato.

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