Friday 23 February 2018

Wine: Californian Zinfandel - results from our blind taste test

California's very own: Zinfandel
California's very own: Zinfandel
Value buy: Malbec 2009, Château Quattre, AOC Cahors.
1. Zinfandel 2012, Silver Palm, North Coast.
2. Old Vine Zin 2013, Gnarley Head, Lodi.
3. Zinfandel 2013, Buena Vista, Dry Creek Valley.
4. Vintners' Reserve Zinfandel 2011, Kendall-Jackson.

Liam Campbell

California has a great medley of grape varietals to experiment and play with. There is hardly a varietal on the planet that isn't being planted by someone somewhere in America's Golden State.

However, one grape that is regarded as California's very own is the black and juicy Zinfandel. It's closely related to Primitivo, from the heel of Italy's Puglia region, but descended directly from a spell-check-defying Croatian varietal, Crljenak (pronounced: "tril-en-ock") Kastelanski. Zinfandel has flourished because its flexibility to produce a range of styles helped it survive by satisfying the public's ping-pong fickleness of taste between red, rosé "blush" or white wines and from dry to medium-sweetness.

Here are results of the highest scoring Zinfandels from a blind taste test of the original full-bodied, dry and fruity styles.

1) Zinfandel 2012, Silver Palm, North Coast 14.5pc

Earthy bouquet and intense earthy palate lifted by mouth-watering acidity and berry fruits. Echo the earthiness with a match of corned beef with honey-glazed carrots and ground coriander seeds.

€18.95 (buy one and get the second bottle at half-price until March 6) at O'Brien's off-licences nationwide and online at

2) Old Vine Zin 2013, Gnarley Head, Lodi 14.5pc

Peppery and juicy bright fresh fruits with a contrasting earthy and leather echo on the aftertaste. Requires a simple rich dark meat - duck topped with smoked rashers and roasted with plums.

€18.99 in Dublin at The Vintry; Baggot Street Wines; Callan's; Sweeney's and Donnybrook Fair; O'Donovan's, Cork citywide and O'Brien's nationwide

3) Zinfandel 2013, Buena Vista, Dry Creek Valley 15pc

Blackberry jam aroma. Ripe fruity full-bodied blackberry flavours masking the potent 15pc alcohol and cushioned by soft tannins and moderate acidity. Grill a steak topped with a subtle blue cheese sauce.

€19.49 at Marks & Spencer nationwide

4) Vintners' Reserve Zinfandel 2011, Kendall-Jackson, Mendocino County 14.5pc

Hint of leather on the nose and finish. Restrained and classy fruit palate in the less-is-more style. Try with a venison and juniper berry stew enriched with red wine and a teaspoon of cocoa powder.

€22.95 at O'Brien's off-licences nationwide and online at

Value buy: Malbec 2009, Château Quattre, AOC Cahors, France 14.5pc

Typically tarry and inky black fruits. Full-bodied alcohol with richness and depth of character. Keep it local with a cassoulet pork and bean stew.

€12.99 while stocks last in the French Wine Sale at Lidl nationwide

Tasting notes

I will be hosting a Wines of California tasting on Wednesday March 9, from 7pm-8.30pm, at Ballymaloe House's Grainstore, near Midleton, Co Cork. Themed "Less is More", the talk will reflect the new evolving style of more subtle flavours and balancing alcohol. Eight elegant wines will be tasted and I'll explain why they work well with suggested food pairings. Tickets are €10. Buy them directly from Ballymaloe House, Tel: (021) 4652531, email: or visit

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