Zinfandel is the same grape as the less famous Italian Primitivo or Croatian Tribidrag and it’s become the emblematic grape of America. In part, this is down to its undeniable success making fruity sweet rosé – which to wine snobs is an affront, but to those who love it, just a tasty way to unwind.
The reds from this grape have a reputation for enormity but not all of them are as hotly boozy as inhaling aftershave – for elegance, try Broc Vine Starr Sonoma County Zinfandel 2015 (13.5%) £22 from The Wine Society.
My zen moment with zin came during a visit to Napa’s Frog’s Leap in California. Against a backdrop of environmental sustainability I tasted a wine that was silky, elegiac and game-changing – Waitrose Cellar online stocks the 2016 vintage for £24.99. A bold bit of poetry rather than a rambling epic, it reminds me that zinfandel’s grip can be a handshake rather than a heart attack.
Old vines in particular seem to produce wines that are more mellow in their profundity. You can also find good blends from top producers such as Ridge with their 2016 Geyserville Zinfandel-led blend £39.60 from Majestic which in spite of the hefty price is well worth a splurge for a Christmas treat this year. But if it’s big as well as beautiful you want, dive into 1000 Stories recommended below – aged in Bourbon casks it’s about as USA as wine gets, proudly flying the flag for memorability and mightiness.
You can’t help but feel captivated by its brooding presence thanks to some masterful wine-fettling by Bob Blue. At last the brute is tamed.
OLLY’S PICK OF THE BUNCH
LIVING IN ZIN: Extra Special Primitivo 2016 (13.5%) £5.50 Asda. A blackcurrant balanced on top of a black cherry – sleek, dark, poised and fruity. *On offer until 2nd January 2019.
GUILTY AS ZIN: Ghost Vines Lodi Zinfandel 2017 (14%) £6.29 Aldi. Silky rich spice and superb value for a beautifully deep red.
ZIN CITY: 1000 Stories Zinfandel 2016 (14.5%) £13 Sainsbury’s. A beauty, aged in Bourbon casks, a bold slab of flavour that’s surprisingly easy drinking. *On offer (from £17) until 11th Dec 2018.
ORIGINAL ZIN: Lytton Springs Ridge Vineyards Zinfandel 2016 (14.5%) £47.95 leaandsandeman.co.uk. The crown jewels from a venerable vineyard with some of the best Zinfandel at its heart.
WINE OF THE WEEK
The Society’s California Old Vine Zinfandel 2016 (14.5%) £7.95 The Wine Society. The best value Zinfandel in Britain right now. Order as much as you can.