Synonyms: Zinfandel, Primitivo (pri-meh-TEE-voh), Crljenak (tsoorl-YEN-ak) kastelansk, Tribidrag, Pribidrag, Kratosija

Wine Name: Zinfandel, Primitivo, White Zinfandel (Rosé that is off dry)

Background: Zinfandel grapes originally came from Croatia by way of Italy and was brought by immigrants to California where they have come to prominence for decades. Italian grapes are called Primitivo (pri-meh-TEE-voh) and the Croatian parent grape, Crljenak (tsoorl-YEN-ak).

In warm climates such as California, Zinfandel tends to produce fruity raspberry, blackberry, boysenberry, cranberry, and black cherry aromas with those same tastes. It may have subtle spices such as cinnamon, black pepper and licorice especially if they are from old vine field mixtures of clones. Usually the wines are medium-bodied, with light to medium tannins, but they can be high in alcohol. Zinfandel is a very versatile grape although its youngest wines tend to be the best. It can be made into a blush or rosé wine (White Zinfandel) that is fruity, easy drinking jug wine, a great dessert wine from raisinated grapes and a full-bodied, oaked wine with soft tannins.

Classic Brands and Sources: California – Ridge, Rosenblum, Ravenswood, J Rickard, A Rafanelli, Dry Creek and many California producers; Australia – Cape Mentelle, Kangarilla Road, Nepenthe; Italy – A Mano, Accademia dei Racemi, Masseria Pepe, Torrevento


Style #1 – light, fruityBody – medium

Acidity – medium

Sweetness – dry but fruity

Tannins – medium

Style #2 – full-bodied, alcohol > 14%, oakedBody – full

Acidity – medium (-)

Sweetness – dry

Tannins – medium

Style #3 – Rosé (off dry)
(White Zinfandel)Body – medium (-)

Acidity – medium (-)

Sweetness – off dry, slightly sweet

Tannins – medium (-)


Wine and food pairing guidelines:

Light, fruity style – Pairs with chicken, pork, veal and beef with acidic sauces as barbeque that does not have too much capsacian hot spices.

Full bodied, higher alcohol style – Alcohol levels over 14.5% generally do not pair well with foods. With lower alcohol levels, pair with lamb and beef with medium acid or wine sauces.

White Zinfandel style – Pairs with spicy barbecue, Mexican dishes with hot peppers, Thai cuisine and sweet dishes.

Foods and Entrees that usually pair:

Light, fruity style – barbecue chicken and pork, sausages, pizza, hamburgers, meat loaf

Full bodied, higher alcohol style – lamb and beef roasts and steaks with wine sauce or balsamic reductions

White Zinfandel style – Thai Red Curries, Chile Relenos, Hot salsa dips

Cheese Pairings:

Light, fruity style – Brie with rind, Camembert with rind, Cantal, cheddar (aged), goat’s cheese, Emmental, Feta, Morbier, Muenster, Raclette, Vacherin, Vermont Shepherd

Full bodied, higher alcohol style – Mild Cheddar, Edam, Glouchester, Manchego, Muenster, Provolone (aged), Parmesan, Pecorino, Roncal, Smoked Gouda.

White Zinfandel style – Cream cheese, Mascarpone, Neufachatel, Boursin, Swiss, Grana Padano, Parmigiano Reggiano

Appetizer Pairings:  See Appetizer Pairings for Cabernet Franc/Zinfandel/Primitivo