The Red Zinfandel grape is near indigenous to California and their wines an integral part of their wine diet. Agreed the grape originated in Italy where it is known as Primitivo, but here they have made it their own brand, just as the Australians made Shiraz a brand of France`s Syrah; also comparable to Argentina and the Malbec grape. While White Zinfandel blush wine (pink) has enjoyed huge popularity, it it the red wine of Zinfandel which fully expresses all that this grape has to offer. Its delicious brambly fruit and raspberry character makes for a fun, fruity beverage to go with the Californian beach barbecue, of course. But winemakers have also taken the grape variety to a higher level where it takes on new complexities and richness of character. Seghesio comes first to mind in Sonoma. These wines are naturally high in alcohol and can present a problem for winemakers in this respect; but well made, they can reach 16% and still be balanced. I urge you to try one!
California, of course, produces all the classic styles, in quality terms reaching the highest peaks with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir for reds, and Chardonnay and Sauvignon for whites.
The food ethic in California is bringing out the flavours, and this centres broadly on well-seasoned meats with seasonal fresh vegetables, on the one hand, and fresh fish and shellfish on the other. While the Spanish-Mexican influence is also evident, it is the French Mediterranean and Italian approach to restaurant cooking which has led the way in Californian nouvelle cuisine, and this as a direct result of matching the food with the new and emerging fine wines made with the classic grape varieties.
Some excellent aperitif-sparkling wines are produced now as well, as you would expect using the champagne grapes Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. And some delicious sweet wines, including the must-try Robert Mondavi Muscat.
- Byron Pinot Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara 2011 £16.99
- Ironstone Old Vine Zinfandel, Lodi 2011 £9.99
- J. Lohr Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon, Pasa Robles 2010 £15.99
- Cigar Volant 2007, Santa Cruz California £35.99
- Scotto, Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel 2011 £9.49
- Morgan Double L Vineyard Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands 2008 £40.00
- Morgan Twelve Clones Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands 2008 £23.99
- Wildflower, J. Lohr, Monterey 2011 £13.99
- Seghesio Zinfandel, Sonoma County, California 2010 £22.99