Brazin Cellars, Old Vine Zinfandel, Wine of USA, Lodi, CentralValley, Caifornia, USA, 2015
On Californian zinfandel
Elsewhere known as primitivo, zinfandel is widely planted in California, where it is used to produce two main styles. These are full-bodied rich reds and dry to sweet pinks, the latter marketed as white zinfandel. White originated in the 1970s, when pale juice was bled off (and fermented separately) before fermentation, to increase the colouration of the remainder. Nowadays rather than using this saignee method, dedicated grapes are grown for white zinfandel in less auspicious sites, for off-dry to sweet cuvees (residual, or added sugar, may help disguise any quality-related shortcomings) with balancing acidity.
A vigorous variety, requiring severe pruning so as to produce a range of interesting aromas and flavours, it suffers from uneven ripening in its tight-knit bunches of thin skinned grapes. So green flavours, rot and insect infestation are risks.
Typically in California,it produces rich, strongly flavoured, full-bodied reds, with alcohol ranging from 13.5-17% abv, depending on the site – near-coastal or inland. Alcohol at the top end of the range, has its source in extended ripening necessary to overcome green berried flavours, from the variety’s tendency to uneven ripening, above. But, by the time these have ripened, raisining of others has occurred – altogether pushing potential alcohol sky high and giving a more cooked and dried fruit profile – a bit porty. To mitigate this, hand harvesting, from bunch to berry level, can be used in tris, but this will only be used for top (price) cuvees.
The strongly flavoured character suits exposure to oak, with medium-toasted American oak being very popular, which adds to a distinct warm climate chocolate (as in this Lodi example, as compared to its more discrete presence in an offering from Puglia), as well as vanilla notes.
This wine: lot No. L1180581053 (low down, on the glass), zinfndel with a splash of petite syrah aka durif, aged in French and American oak barrels, plant-based material closure, 14.5% abv, Waitrose £14 (12/18)
Consumer tasting note: deepy coloured with strong aromas of rich black cherry, creamy chocolate, a little toast and an edge of black liquorice; full-bodied and wearing its high alcohol well, with well-integrated oak, and a palate of black cherry and currant again, with vanilla and wet prune. Finishes very long.
Drink now – RTD, but will keep – Wait. No need to decant.
WSET style tasting note
Appearance: clear and bright, deep intensity ruby, showing tears [no sediment].
Nose: clean, developing, medium (+) intensity, with aromas as they come, of ripe black cherry, more delicate stewed black berry, a savoury touch, creamy chocolate, hint of toast, a developing hint of black liquorice, waxy.
Palate: dry, medium acidity, soft ripe medium (-) tannins, high alcohol, full body, pronounced intensity, a rich smooth texture with a sense of sweetness in mid-palate, with flavours of rich ripe black cherry, a vanilla hint, wet prune, black cherry jam, blackcurrant. A very long length (>30 s) with a clean rich black berried finish edged with a hint of creamy chocolate, with the slightest bitterness on the end.
Quality: very good, balanced acidity and soft tannins with alcohol, which although high, seems well integrated; strong intensity throughout, with similar concentration; showing some complexity by way of evidence of well integrated medium toasted oak (chocolate and vanilla), and a little time in bottle (savoury, wax). Finishes soundly long.
Drinking readiness/ageing potential: drink now, unsuited to further ageing, but will keep for 1-2 years – balanced right now, but with soft low-key tannins and no great acidity, nothing will be gained here by more ageing, the intention seems to be RTD with a rich primary and secondary profile, of little age.