Monday, July 26, 2010

Newbie Me & Zin

Zinfandel wine began as the major focus of this blog (Eureka explains why I ventured into other wines). There are those who just want to enjoy the adventure of a great Varietal they've not tasted, or venture into wines more daringly; like tasting French Bordeaux, Spanish Rioja, or Italian Brunello Montalcino wines for example (Something will be learned on this path).
To begin with, I'm going to the future to bring an aphorism from Claire "Uncorked": "Having said the newbie thing...when you really think about it, I think most of us wine drinkers that lean to the serious side are going to be newbies for a long time. There's just so much, and; we - and; the wine - are always changing."
In this sentence is the encapsulation of much of my journey.
Since you probably are a wine drinker, but may not have ventured into Zinfandel wines, (Varietal, in some sense, makes up more than 90% of why we buy one wine over another) sometimes referred to as America's grape, then you are in for a great surprise.
A few facts are in order and to give some perspective: Croatia appears to be the home of the Zinfandel Grape, but it is most abundant in California, A few Zinfandel wines are made in Australia, for example Cape Mentelle Zinfandel, St. Peter's (Kangarilla Road Black), and Hentley Farm. In Italy, Zinfandel is most often called Primitivo, but seems to have a lower alcohol content (The warmer the temperature and the longer the growing season the more sugar in the grape, and consequently the potential for a higher % of alcohol).
Zinfandel may be a name given to an Austrian Grape known as Zierfandler, but I like to think it was given for the Zinger Zip of the wild, gamy quality of this wine, which is usually 14% to 15.5% alcohol.
In California and Australia, some Zinfandels were planted over a hundred years ago, some of these vines are labeled "Old Vines" or "Ancient Vines", which often means a more interesting wine-making adventure with intense results; the roots of some grape vines can be longer than thirty feet and that fact too has an effect on on the wine. However, too often "Old Vines" is a meaningless phrase; the best thing to do is to is to check the fact sheets provided by the winery. Some wineries have agreed on 35 to 80 years.
For more historical and technical information click on the link provided and away you go.

For my first review, I would like to compare: 2007 Green and Red Zinfandel (Napa Valley) $18.99 vs. 2007 Frog's Leap (Napa Valley) $20.39

Green and Red 2007 Zinfandel was the first Zinfandel that I liked; not only did I like it, I loved it: Smooth with a LONG finish, not overpowering with odd flavors (CLEAN), but structured with rich berry and grape that goes well with tortillas or baby-back ribs, having a nearly perfect black pepper finish. The most famous wine taster said: "I've never had a Green and Red that I did not like." This wine is from Chiles canyon, and should be very drinkable now through 2015. This is a definite value, and would be at $30. I scored it 92 Points.

Frog's Leap Napa valley 2007 Zinfandel, $20.39, 91 points, has an almost strawberry color, sweet aroma with cinnamon and spice, having an excellent finish of spice, it is vibrant and lively, but it is soooo smooth, soooo drinkable that it is fortunate that its alcohol content is 13.4%. I loved this Zin and as The Wine Week (No longer posting) guys would say: "it is a Ripper". This too is a value even at $30. I scored it 91 Points. I tasted this wine again on April 2, 2011 and had the same pleasure as the first time.

The edge goes to Green and Red, but ever so slightly.

This is my first post on this blog site, and I hope to refine it as I go along.
What I have found is that most people don't give much thought to any system of drinking and tasting wine, but since I started taste testing wine, I've been writing notes and keeping score, and thought that others, especially neighbors in NH might like some suggestions.
Keep in mind that I buy all the wines I review (some are gifts from family members for birthdays or Christmas, or are provided at a dinner by others. I seldom do blind tastings, but they are noted. The danger of "confirmation bias" (Knowing a wine's reputation has an influence) is always a possibility, however, that tendency is reduced as I plunk dollars-down on a wine I don't like. Also, watch for wines I repeatedly BUY and review, as they will most likely reflect a good wine at a good price (QPR-Quality, Price, Ratio), at least as I see it.
Other thoughts on wine reviews: I have, in my limited experience, come to resent "Know it all-ism." I don't know what wine will be best for you, but I'll taste wines available in New Hampshire, and I'll compare, for example, a Zinfandel to a Brunello (Arguably not possible), and if a Zinfandel that is maybe taste-worthy for 5 years goes toe-to-toe with a 20 year Brunello that out-shines that Zinfandel by a considerable margin, then my score should reflect that; I was recently reading a magazine which likes to vaunt itself as the alpha and omega of wine reviews, whereupon I see just such a discrepancy; the why of it is not important, but if you are referring to the magazine's scores on deciding what wine to buy, and you see 90 points for this Zinfandel that costs less than $20 and a Brunello that costs more than $30 and yet scores 90 points as well, chances are, if you are like me, the Zinfandel will be the wine you purchase. Is this a mountain in a molehill? Not at all, because when different people are scoring exclusively a class of wine, they are judging say Zinfandel against Zinfandel, Brunello against Brunello, but you are there in the store and what you want is a good wine at a good price, and your wine app says that this Zinfandel is as good as this Brunello, but in reality that's just not so (There are Zinfandels just as good, but this case just isn't one of them, I've tasted both and there's NO comparison!) So when referring to wine scores, blind or not, let me recommend that you find real people with a broad wine tasting perspective germane to your wine tasting needs, and see how they line-up. You may find that your taste in Zinfandel wines line-up, but not your taste in Brunello wines.
The fact is that no two palates are the same, and more than anything concerning wine, is that you discover the joy of exploring responsible wine drinking; I'm going to try and make that as much fun for you as it has been for me. Keep in mind that scoring wine is often a subjective issue. I use the 100 point scale and my scoring takes into account wine that can stand alone; a wine that is desirable and enjoyed by itself  is usually a better wine; in Europe, wine is naturally another food at the table, and is intended to compliment the local cuisine (That table wine can be as good as any other wine), but when I refer to a "table wine" I mean a wine that goes well with food, but may not be a "stand-alone-wine."
Price is almost always an issue, and does not always guaranty a quality wine.
There are quality wines for under $10.00, and if you are like me, a bottle of 750 ml is good for two or three days, making it no more expensive than going to the coffee shop (sorry, but not so true three years later).
Though Zinfandel wines can be found for under $10.00, they do mostly sell for more than your bargain-basement Merlot, because, though 10%,  (approx.) of grapes grown in California, (only 3% in Napa Valley) are Zinfandel, that is still a relatively small amount, and supply and demand rule.
However, you just might find that a great Zinfandel wine can be found for much less than a great Cabernet Sauvignon or a Pinot Noir, and at about the same price as a great Merlot.

Now, to find a good wine in New Hampshire can be a problem for us Newbie wine drinkers, and for those looking to buy wine for others; there is a simple answer: find someone who knows wine. I want this blog to help, but also I want to recommend where you can go. In the forth-coming posts I will make reference to wine shops, but keep in mind that most markets will not be able to wisely advise you with what wines best fit your circumstances. The New Hampshire Liquor Stores do have some knowledgeable people, but it can be hit or miss.
So, check your local listings for a wine boutique near you and begin the exploration, but remember that the adventure begins and ultimately ends in the tasting, not here or in a wine-shop.

For a more in-depth look at "Newbie Me"
Checkout my post here:


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  1. More opinion:
    Being critical of a wine seems anathema to some, and I can understand why, but if the term advocate is used, then the euphemisms I read in the wine reviews often seem misleading . The Wine Library is an exception, though I've wondered about the, at times, extreme approach, and so, I chalk it up to the histrionics of video and camaraderie.
    I can imagine that some people just love wine so much, that nary a complaint can be made, or that some winery might stop advertising. Yet when "you" buy a magazine for reviews to assist in a wine purchase and the descriptors are the same or similar across the board from 84 points to 96 points without concurrent comments, then the emphasis is lost on some gossamer judgment-call of those looking for help in spending their money. Rather requiring: "you know the way I score wine and can 'trust' my opinion"; I try not to do this, but am guilty on an occasion (Me Bad).
    Often the blogs are this way and more-so, not even scoring a wine (This too I can understand), but the more defined the opinion, the more elaborated the judgment, and the more delineated the comments with scores, the more the value of the aide and advise.
    There are times when I'll just score a wine, but in the context of the New HampshireWine-man blog, I hope those scores will speak loudly, and kept to a minimum.

  2. A brief note on wine scores: they are subjective, and I intend for them to assist a New Hampshire wine purchaser to at least gauge my estimation of a wine's subjective worth (A three dollar wine is worth its weight in its inherent cleaning potential). Banfi 2009 San Angelo Pinot Grigio is worth much more than $15.00. Some bloggers don't score, some use excellent, good, or fair, and others use a five-point or ten-point scale. Many perfer to get deep into nuanced descriptors like "wild-quince-jamalade" or "yellow-plumed-pineapple", but whatever floats their boats, to you (Just looking for a good bottle of wine at a good price) that may remain meaningless .
    So, when I score a wine 90 points, but the wine costs $70.00, you'll likely see me say: "not a good buy', but when you read that I've scored a wine 90 points and it cost $12.00, I'll be shouting: "Great deal. . . Best Buy. . . High QRR (Quality Price Ratio), etc.
    That sums up the scoring business.

  3. This is an excellent explanation of the Zinfandel grape: Carole Meredith They ARE the same grape variety. But the TTB currently requires that American wine made from vines that have been propagated from vines imported from Italy as Primitivo must be labeled Primitivo. So we still see some US wines carrying that varietal label. There have been at least a couple of attempts to get Primitivo and Zinfandel approved as interchangeable synonyms (just like Syrah and Shiraz, and Petite Sirah and Durif). But there is always some opposition to the proposal (based, I think, on fear that a tsunami of Italian Primitivo would come into the US labeled as Zinfandel and compete with American-produced Zin.) In the EU, the two names have been accepted as synonyms since 1998, so there is Italian wine labeled as Zinfandel in wine shops in London. AND the TTB approves the labels of imported wines if those labels are legal in the country of origin, so there is already Italian wine here in the US that is labeled Zinfandel even though the variety name used in Italy is Primitivo. There is absolutely no question that they are the same variety. Certainly there are some clonal differences, but look at all the Pinot noir clones. They are all still called Pinot noir. So far, we know of at least 5 additional names for the variety we fondly know as Zinfandel: Primitivo, Crljenak kastelanski, Pribidrag, Kratosija, and Tribidrag.

  4. Well, after more than six years this is what has happened to the Zinfandel man:
    From the:

    Are you a "New World or an "Old World" wine lover quiz:

    You are a "Globetrotter"

    You don’t have an established preference between wines from New World or Old World countries. Both regions produce incredible wines and you can't choose a favorite. One day you may sip a sweet and fruity, full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon with high alcohol content; and the next day you might enjoy a light-bodied and earthy Bordeaux Blend, with low-alcohol content.

    Any way you put it, your expectations are high when you open a bottle and for that reason, you should consider both World's End - "If Six Was Nine", Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Napa Valley, USA and Chateau Teyssier - Saint-Emilion Grand Cru, France.