Thursday, 5 November 2015

Forgive me father, for I have Zin-ned...

(Photo taken from under CCL)

As the autumn evenings start drawing in I find my go-to wines starting to change. Out go the Rieslings* and Chardonnays and in come the big, bold, spicy, fruity, warming reds. There are lots of wines I like in this category, but one of the grapes that I have really grown to like over the last year or so is Zinfandel (or Primitivo if you live in Italy).

I have been doing my normal, pain-staking research (you're welcome guys) and here are some of the cardinal Zins (OK I'll stop that now...)

California dreaming...

First up we have the 2013 The Society's Old-Vine Zinfandel (California, USA) (The Wine Society: £7.50/bottle). I am a huge fan on The Wine Society and always find that their own-brand range of wines represents spectacular value and some astonishingly good wine making - this is no exception. The wine sits deep-ruby in the glass, it has a sweet, red cherry aroma to it. On tasting it has a very nice feel to it, juicy yet silky smooth. The fruit flavours are more black cherry now, with just a little touch of chocolate as well to give it some depth. Decent finish, brilliant wine, fantastic value. Quality: 7.0; Value: 9.5.

Another of my firm favourites is the 2012 Brazin Old-Vine Zinfandel (California, USA) (The Wine Society: £10.95/bottle). When I smelled this wine I was reminded of cherry cola, this time coupled with some slightly caramel notes. When tasted it was smooth and velvety, soft and rich with black fruit with a secondary profile of treacle and cola. This is a rip-snorter of a wine at a tremendous price, once again. Quality: 7.5; Value: 9.0.

Next on my search was the 2013 Cline Ancient Vines Zinfandel (California, USA) (Majestic: £19.99/bottle; £15.99/bottle when you buy six). This wine had a nice clear, slightly tawny colour to it. On the nose it had a telling cherry cola flavour to it, which is somewhat of a hallmark of Californian Zins, along with some stewed blackcurrants and sweet spices. On the mouth the flavours were highly pronounced with juicy strawberries and a slight mocha deepness to it. Another decent wine. Quality: 7.0; Value: 7.0.

One of the more expensive Zin brands out there is the 2013 Ridge Lytton Springs (California, USA) (Majestic: £32/bottle; £28.80/bottle when you buy six). When I opened this wine, I felt like I was sticking my nose into the tin of a fruit cake, it was sweet and lovely! On drinking it had some lovely and deep black fruit flavours with real length to the finish. This is the most polished Zin that I have tried recently. Quality: 8.5; Value: 6.0.

Primitivo time...

As I mentioned above, Zinfandel has become pretty much synonymous with California, but its homeland is actually in southern Italy where it is known by a completely different name - Primitivo. 

I tried the 2013 Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Primitivo (Puglia, Italy) (Sainsbury's: £8/bottle). The nose was pleasantly complex with blackcurrant compote and blackberry flavours coupled with some dried fruits (figs and raisins) and a touch of sweet spices (cinnamon and vanilla). On the mouth it was mainly red fruit (strawberries and red cherries), with a little hint of those sweet spices again. Quality: 6.5; Value: 9.0.

I also tried another Primitivo in Artusi (an Italian restaurant in Peckham I visited recently - review shortly to follow on my other blog *shameless plug klaxon*), which was a 2012 Christiano Guttarolo Primitivo Lamie delle Vigne (Puglia, Italy). On the nose the aromas were largely centred around black cherries, with a faint hint of spice. On tasting I noticed a more prevalent acidity than on the Zins, the fruits were once more red with cherries and strawberries being the order of the day. A more mineralic wine than those above, I would say. Quality: 7.5.


As you will see, Zinfandels/Primitivos for me tend to represent very good value. The Californian examples are big, juicy and bold, whilst the Italian ones have a pleasing, if somewhat surprising, elegance to them. Personally I plan to spend some time (and money) exploring wines to the higher end of the price bracket to see whether you find increasing complexity as you spend more money.

What are your thoughts on Zinfandels/Primitivos? Are you a fan? What other Autumn wines do you reach for?

* That is a lie, I ALWAYS have a few bottles of Riesling in my wine rack...

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