April 15, 2013-“I thought all white wine was Chardonnay.”
“I thought Zinfandel was a white wine.”
“Why are red wines red?”
Those quotes, all 100 percent genuine, prove that wine is still a confusing subject for many wine drinkers. But who can blame them? Wine can be very intimidating and complicated and because no one wants to feel like a total idiot, it’s possible that a lot of people keep drinking the same thing where they feel safe.
If you’re a devotee of white wine and only shop the white wine aisle, it is feasible and reasonable to think Zinfandel is white rather than red and if it is a red wine, how come it is white?
The story of White Zinfandel dates back to 1972 when Bob Trinchero at Sutter Home Winery bled off 550 gallons of white juice in order to concentrate the rest of the juice for a big , hearty Zin. Here’s a good place to answer the question of what makes red wines red. The answer is simple: contact with the skins. Grapes are pretty much the same color inside. It is the skins that make the difference. Letting the skins and seeds ferment with the juice adds color, tannins and other interesting dimensions.
So here’s Bob Trinchero with his 550 gallons of white juice and he wondered what to do with it. Long story short, he called it “White Zinfandel”. For Sutter Home, the rest is history. That first batch made 400 cases and to his surprise it took off. It was white and dry. About three years later, almost by accident, it turned blush pink and was sweeter. Now he really had a hit! The story of how that came about is fun to read at http://www.drvino.com/2011/01/18/white-zinfandel-sutter-home-trinchero-first-1975/.
Today Sutter Home is selling millions of cases a year and many other producers have jumped on the bandwagon. In the wine industry it is often considered an “entry” wine. It is easy to drink, fresh and very likeable, especially with spicy foods.
Red Zinfandel is labeled simply “Zinfandel” because it is traditionally a red wine. You could say “White Zinfandel” is the anomaly but since so much of it is sold, it deserves to be considered mainstream 40 years after it became a commercial success.