What is Zinfandel?

Zin was originally thought to be or to be related to southern Italy's Primitivo, a variety that also produces dark, plummy wines. It has now been proved that they are more like cousins, related to Crljenak Kastelanski, a grape from Croatia.

There has been a campaign to get Zin declared California's historic wine, recognising its long history in the state. There are vineyards which still contain vines over a hundred years old, grown in the traditional way as bushes rather than on trellises.

Leading producers including Paul Draper at Ridge Vineyards, and Joel Petersen at Ravenswood. Petersen in particular has done much to popularize the variety. His slogan characterizes the wine and its devotees: 'no wimpy wines here'.

Zinfandel has popped up in Adelaide Hills in South Australia, and in pockets elsewhere.

Main characteristics

Colour: red; medium to deep garnet, sometimes with bluish tints

Body: medium to full bodied

Tastes: red and black plums, with aromas of vanilla and coconut from American oak barrels, often with a supple texture from high alcohol levels. Also, as 'Blush' or 'White' Zin, as a fairly sweet pink, in California

AKA: 'Zin'

Spotter's guide: California, USA; in small but increasing amounts in Australia, especially Adelaide Hills

Keep or drink? Price is an indicator: young Zins at around £6.99 are certainly ready to single vineyard Zins may be drunk now but can be cellared for 5-8 years and more

Price range: £6.99-£50

Try it with

Cream of cauliflower soup with sautéed wild mushrooms
Devilled mushrooms
Succulent braised venison