White Zinfandel

Appears in
Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

White Zinfandel, undeterred by the fact that it is neither white nor crucially Zinfandel, was California’s great commercial success story of the 1980s. Although he was not the first to vinify California’s heritage zinfandel grapes as a white, and therefore blush, wine, Bob Trinchero of Sutter Home launched ‘White’ Zinfandel down the commercial slipway in 1972 and was to see his own sales rocket from 25,000 cases in 1980 to 1.5 million cases six years later. Other producers quickly jumped on board and experienced similar success. The wine evolved as a way of making California’s vast acreage of Zinfandel acceptable to the predominantly white wine-drinking American public, and it also saved many old-vine Zin vineyards from being converted to Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine is usually pale pink, decidedly sweet, often scented with more than a dash of other, more obviously aromatic, grape varieties such as Muscat or Riesling. So successful was the wine that it begat styles such as White Grenache and White Merlot. White Zinfandel sales remain strong, although US consumers are increasingly gravitating to drier rosés.