Today’s post was going to be a rant about the evils of huge companies and the horrible wine one some times gets from them but i decide to go another way and look at the history of White Zinfandel, a wine that gives most decent hard working Rosés a bad name for being sweet! White Zinfandel, Zinfandel Blush or White Zin, is a sweet, pink-colored wine. White Zin is made from the red Zinfandel grape, which would otherwise produce a bold and spicy red wine. In America its home it outsells red Zinfandel wines by 6 to 1.
But where did it come from?
Zinfandel was first made into a rosé wine in 1869 by the El Pinal Winery in Lodi, California. But it wasn’t until the 70s that it really took off. In the 1970s Sutter Home Winery was a producer of premium Zinfandel red wine in the Napa Valley. To increase concentration in their wines, they used the saignée technique to bleed off some of the grape juice before fermentation, to increase the impact of compounds in the skins on the remaining wine. The excess juice was separately fermented into a dry, almost white wine that Sutter Home called “White Zinfandel.”
All good till now but in 1975, Sutter Home’s White Zinfandel experienced a “stuck fermentation”, a problem that occurs when the yeast dies out before consuming all of the sugar. This problem juice was set aside. Some weeks later the winemaker tasted it, and preferred this accidental result, which was a sweet pink wine, think candy floss. This is the style that became popular and today is known as White Zin. Sutter Home being good capitalists, realised they could sell far more White Zin than anything they had produced to date, and gradually became a successful producer of inexpensive wines.
They remain one of the biggest producers of the wine, with annual shipments of over four million cases. One good that came out of the White Zin craze was that old vine Zinfandel that would have been ripped up, was kept and was available when in the 80s and 90s people realised that you could make prized red wines from these old vines.