According to Madeline Puckette, White Zinfandel opens the door for wine consumers. It is the first wine that many people are exposed to. White Zinfandel forms the benchmark for our palates to progress to other grapes and wine styles, and it is a behemoth in the marketplace.
Serving temperature can make a huge difference to properly enjoy it.
What is White Zinfandel?
White Zinfandel is essentially a rosé of Zinfandel. They are pink in color and are often off-dry to sweet. This type of wine dominated the American wine market from the late-1970s until the mid-1990s.
White Zinfandels tend to be low in tannin, low in alcohol, and give flavor notes of strawberries. Their simplicity makes them approachable to new wine drinkers.
What is Rosé?
Rosé is made from red grapes that spend a short amount of time in contact with their skins. The two most common production methods are direct pressing with a short maceration, or by blending red wine into white wine.
Rosé is a dominant force in the wine market that is growing at a remarkable pace.
What is Zinfandel?
People in the United States often refer to Zinfandel as “our” grape. It is uncommon to find Zinfandel grown in other wine regions around the world. It has a tendency to produce red wines that have high levels of alcohol and tannin.
What is Old Vine Zinfandel?
Old Vine refers to wine made from grapes that are grown on really old vines – typically 50+ years old. However, there is no legal standard to use the phrase on a wine label. Zinfandel is one of the few wines from the US that you’ll find labeled as “Old Vine”.
Where else is Zinfandel grown?
The Puglia region of southeastern Italy produces Zinfandel under the name of Primitivo. Italian Zinfandel is usually lighter than what is produced in California with a higher acidity. Red fruit flavors tend to dominate, while California Zinfandel more commonly ripen to achieve black fruit flavors.
Where did White Zinfandel come from?
White Zinfandel’s assumed parentage starts with Bob Trinchero of Sutter Home.
He was producing a traditional rosé of Zinfandel. Somehow, the fermentation tank got colder than the temperature at which fermentation occurs, below 52°F.
This left residual sugar in the wine. Sutter Home chose to sell the wine in their tasting room anyway. It was a hit, and the rest is history.
Did White Zinfandel save “old vine” Zinfandel?
If the United States’s wine market hadn’t fallen in love with White Zinfandel, according to Sutter Home, “old vine” Zinfandel vineyards would have been torn out and replaced with Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay.
Today, California’s sought-after wines and best value wines are produced from these “old vine” vineyards.
Do you serve White Zinfandel chilled?
White Zinfandel should be served chilled, at approximately 45-50 degrees Fahrenheit. Leaving the bottle in your refrigerator overnight or between three to four hours should do the trick. A last minute alternative: fill a bucket slightly more than half-way with ice, add an equal amount of water to the bucket, then spin the bottle in the bucket periodically for five to ten minutes.
What is the optimal White Zinfandel serving temperature?
I recommend keeping your White Zinfandel on the lower end of the chilled range, closer to 45°F. After you serve a glass, make sure you place the bottle back in your refrigerator or your ice bucket until you are ready for your next glass.
Does this serving temperature differ from other types of wines?
This serving temperature is as cold as you should serve light white wines. It is warmer than you should serve sparkling or dessert wines, colder than you should serve full-bodied white wines, and significantly colder than you should serve your bigger red wines.
Why are there different serving temperatures for different wine styles?
We ask different wines to do different things.
Lighter whites, rosés, and sparkling wines tend to have lean floral and green fruit flavors that we want to preserve with the colder serving temperature.
Full-bodied white wines and red wines have a complex range of aromas that we want to explore by serving slightly warmer.
Are there varying preferences for serving temperature?
The serving temperature for White Zinfandel is standard. For new wine drinkers, we recommend this wine served well chilled.
Some drinkers will take it a step further by adding ice to their glass while they drink White Zinfandel. I say more power to them. Whatever makes you comfortable drinking a glass of wine works for me. I want wine drinkers to have fun.
What are the best practices for storing White Zinfandel?
When you store bottles of White Zinfandel, try to avoid storing them in the kitchen (as this tends to be the warmest room in the house and feature a wide range of temperature changes).
If the bottle is under cork, you want to store the bottle on its side so that the cork remains wet.
If you’re a serious wine collector, a wine fridge is your best bet for storage. Most will control for temperature fluctuations and other factors that might negatively impact the quality of your wine.
What about short-term vs long-term storing (or aging)?
White Zinfandel is not suitable for long-term aging.
When you buy a bottle of it, you want to drink it within a year of the purchase, if not sooner.
The longer you wait, the fruit flavors will be muted, and the wine will start to change color from amber to brown. These color changes are a sign that your rosé is past its prime, going bad, or already bad.
Does White Zinfandel need to be refrigerated?
Yes. Refrigerate your White Zinfandel if you plan to drink it within three weeks.
If you don’t plan on drinking it within three weeks then keep it in a cold, dark room (or wine fridge) that has a constant temperature between 50-59° Farenheit. It never needs to be warmer, since this wine should be served chilled.
How should I store an open but unfinished bottle of White Zinfandel?
When you open a bottle of White Zinfandel I recommend that you drink it within five days.
After five days the wine will lose its fruit flavors and start to taste sour. Keep the wine in your refrigerator to preserve its freshness.
What is the optimal temperature to store White Zinfandel?
You want to store this wine between 50-59° Fahrenheit for long term storage .
How does this storing temperature range differ from other types of wines?
You want to store all of your wine in this same range until you are ready to drink them.
Corks can fail if wine is stored at higher temperatures. Because of this, wines may also lose their fruitiness, rendering them out of balance and bitter.
With a White Zinfandel, due to their higher level of residual sugar, they could potentially start fermenting again–then you’d have a mess on your hands!
Kevin John O’Neill won his WSET level 3 award in 2018. He was a judge in the 2019 New Orleans International Wine Awards. In addition to his experience developing wine brands, he’s also managed millions of dollars in annual wine and spirits revenue.