The Story Behind America’s Favorite Wine: White Zinfandel

Sutter Home Winery in Napa, California, produced the first White Zinfandel wine in the early 1970’s. No one would have predicted its popularity. Beringer Vineyards took on the challenge of offering this white-styled, but decidedly pink wine, to those who wanted a not-so-dry wine. By preserving a light and fresh red-berry nuance and a touch of the “zing” found in a ripe red wine, Beringer modeled the best-selling wine of all time.

This easy drinking, lighter and slightly sweeter wine is made from a very good grape – the Zinfandel. The Zinfandel grape is red. There’s no such thing as a white Zinfandel grape, so here’s the story:

White Zinfandel gets its blush of color from the deep red skin of the Zinfandel grape. When the grapes are harvested, the skins are left on for only a short time, a few hours to a day, perhaps. The weight of the grapes, pressing against each other, extracts a pretty pink-tinged juice. In contrast, a winemaker making red Zinfandel wine will leave the juice and the red skins in contact for days or weeks, producing a deep red juice.

Not all blush wines are equal and here is where White Zin shines. It is made from a quality grape. This red Zinfandel grape is known for its luscious deep, berry-fruit flavors and a characteristic spiciness (think “blackberries”) – which transfers to White Zinfandel in a delectable, but less intense manner, than in the red version.

This contrasts with a wine just labeled “Blush” and not naming the grape. There are laws protecting the consumer: If the label uses a grape name, it is guaranteed to be a certain, high percentage of that specific grape. If the label says simply “Blush,” it may be a mixture of some inferior red and white wine to create the pink color.

White Zin is the best selling wine, not only in restaurants, but in wine shops as well. The traditional wedding champagne fountain often flows with the pink and juicy White Zinfandel and it’s the favorite toast between a bride and groom.

The Zinfandel grape is, famous for full-flavored, spicy red wines – the kind of wine you love with a big bowl of pasta and a Tuscan red sauce, the house Barbeque with a smoky hickory glaze, a succulent rib-eye or even your favorite chili recipe. Your in-restaurant or in-store wine professional will help you choose a red Zinfandel that’s just perfect for your menu.

You’ll find both White Zinfandel and red Zinfandel readily available, but they are two very different wines, made from the same grape.