Zinfandel is the forgotten grape. At least, it’s often forgotten by me. I forget a lot of stuff, including my friends’ birthdays, renewing my license tag and canceling my SiriusXM, because seriously, why am I paying more than $200 a year to hear Imagine Dragons and the Lumineers over and over?
But I digress. Here’s the thing about Zinfandel. It’s good! It’s a big, fruity, robust wine that you can drink with barbecued anything — burgers, steak, lamb chops, whatever. You could probably drink it with barbecued garden hose and be pretty content.
Other fun Zin facts:
▪ Zinfandel doesn’t come from the usual European suspects like Italy or Germany or France. Get this: Scientists did a “Law and Order: SVU”-style DNA test on the grapes and found out they hail from Croatia.
▪ There are “Old Vine” Zinfandels, which means the grapes were grown on vines that are at least 50 years old. Allegedly they have a bigger flavor profile (which means they are going to be more expensive). Here at Poppin’ Bottles we applaud the idea that things older than 50 are more valuable.
▪ Zinfandels sometimes have a higher alcohol content than other red wines (because the grape has a higher sugar content than most).
▪ White Zinfandels are pink and sweet and were invented accidentally by a guy at Sutter Home whose wine randomly stopped fermenting. Like leg warmers and Rubik’s Cubes, the heydey of White Zinfandel (the ’80s) is over, but White Zin lives on, and it’s more popular than regular Zinfandel. Do something about that, OK?
▪ Founding father Alexander Hamilton almost certainly had Zinfandel in his mug when he was running around the New York pubs shouting “Raise a glass!”
OK, I made up that last one, but it’s a good segue to the introduction of a wine you really ought to know about: 2014 Federalist Bourbon Barrel-Aged Zinfandel ($21.99, and yes, it does come with a picture of the founding father without a father on the label).
Poppin’ Bottles, you ask, why would anybody age red wine in a bourbon barrel? For the taste, of course. The Federalist Zin is aged six months in American oak barrels and then six months in charred bourbon barrels. This mysterious combination results in a deep purple, delectable wine redolent of raspberry, blackberry and an unmistakable vanilla. So good you’d fight a duel over the last glass. At Total Wine locations and Jensen’s Liquors in Miami.
We also tasted two other Zins, just for contrast:
Ravenswood Old Vine Zinfandel Napa Valley 2014 ($18): Zinfandels are known for their jamminess, and Ravenswood’s Napa Valley Old Vine has that famous blackberry undertone, plus vanilla and a whole lot of cherry as well. It is not as immediately drinkable as the Federalist, but run it through an aerator or decant it for a bit, and suddenly depth appears and flavors spring out at you. At Total Wine.
Ravenswood Old Vine Zinfandel Mendocino County 2014 ($18): Our least favorite of the bunch, this rugged Zin came off a bit harsh in comparison to the other two. Maybe it’s the lack of vanilla that renders it a bit less smooth. But given time, this wine also opens up, if not quite as smoothly as its Napa Valley cousin. At Total Wine.