Zinfandel is ready for just about anything.
Zinfandel lovers are a particular breed. By and large, "Zin-heads" are not tucked away in a dark corner. Zin-heads tend to revel at the boisterous table smack dab in the middle of the room. They're the ones having a great time and wanting you to join the fun! Indeed, a juicy red Zinfandel is practically a party in a wine glass.
Although it is thought to be related to the native Italian Primitivo grape, Zinfandel is quintessential California. It is the most widely planted red grape in the state, and more of it is planted in California than anywhere else in the world. Much of it is used to make white Zinfandel, a slightly sweet blush wine. It is also sometimes used as a blending grape in other red wines.
But it is the ultra-ripe, intensely flavored red Zinfandel wines that have created the craze. They have a lush richness that is just plain hard to resist.
Zinfandel can be bright and medium-bodied or jammy and decadent. Either way, Zin's raspberry, strawberry, blueberry, cherry, chocolate and spicy black pepper flavors are positively delicious.
One of the reasons Zinfandel is so much fun is that it's not a wine that wants to be overanalyzed. No need to stare off into the distance as you try to discern the nuances of a vintage or the oak regimen of the winemaker. These are slurpably bold, richly flavored wines.
Zin's richness is something to keep in mind when pairing it with foods—it will simply overwhelm anything delicate or subtle. Zinfandel is just about the best burger wine in the world. It goes well with any rich and meaty dish. If you have a favorite pot roast recipe or are wondering what to pair with a crockpot stew, look no further than the Zinfandel section. The rich, lush red berry and spicy pepper kick will be the best "sauce" you can imagine.
The same goes for grilled foods. That smoky, charred flavor just sings when contrasted with the jammy richness of a Zin.
Zinfandel's richness and body can also tame the flame in spicy, peppery, chile-spiked food. From Tex-Mex to Cajun potato wedges and spicy sausages, Zinfandel is a great pairing for your flavorful favorites.
Buying Tip: California's Dry Creek Valley (a sub-region of Sonoma) and the Sierra Foothills (part of Amador County) are often thought to offer outstanding Zins.