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Q: White Zin/Red Zin: The Confusion Continues…

by David on January 19, 2009

Question from Linda: I am still confused. Is white zinfandel considered a red wine and does it have the benefits I keep reading about red wine?

Reply: Hi, Linda. Thanks for writing! It seems that confusion about white/red Zin is extremely common, as I look through our “Ask the Educator” archives! So, here goes:

Even though White Zin is pink, it’s really made and tastes very much like a slightly sweet white wine. If I was categorizing it on a restaurant wine list, I’d call it a blush or pale rosé. If given only the choice of red or white, it’s most like a white.

It’s safe to assume that rosé wines have been made as long as there’s been wine but, as the story goes, the original, slightly sweet wine we call White Zinfandel was first made, unintentionally, at Sutter Home winery and it was this serendipitous event that transformed our neighbors from a very small farmhouse of a winery, into the multi-million case producer they are today.

Regarding the health benefits: Since the goodies (polyphenols, resveratrol, procyanidins) you’ve been reading about come from the grape skins it stands to reason that White Zin will be low in them because of the very brief skin-to-juice contact time it takes to get the light pink color (the juice of dark varieties is clear). Just the time it takes to get the fresh grapes crushed, stemmed and plopped into a fermentation tank can be enough, depending on the variety, state of ripeness and how much color the winemaker is looking for.  So I’d say that drinking dark red wine, in moderation, is more likely to provide those health benefits you’re asking about than pink or white wines. Any enologists or physicians out there care to comment?

If you’re not fond of red wine, but would like to be, there’s a fairly painless, but slow, way to develop a taste for it. If you’re drinking mainly White Zin and other sweet-ish wines, try a very fruity, but dry, white like our dry Viognier, or a dry Riesling or dry Gewürztraminer (you need to specify “dry” because these varieties are often made sweet). The fruitiness helps to bridge the gap from sweet to dry. Also, breaking in new styles goes easier if you include food – I’m always hungry 😉 Once you’ve come to a place where you like these dry wines, try something a little bigger, such as a relatively fruity Chardonnay (Goosecross Chard has loads of fruit). From there, go on to light-bodied reds like Pinot Noir or a Beaujolais type. A couple of days ago I served our sleek AmerItal Red blend to someone who said the reds are “too bitey” for her and she loved it. Before you know it, you’ll be asking for monster Cabs! It just takes a bit of time, and most of us prefer reds with a meal or some cheese (semi-hard to hard cheeses are usually best with reds).

I hope that answers your question and that you have a lot of fun exploring until you find something you really like! And, as always, when you’re contemplating drinking wine for the health benefitss, consult your physician! Cheers!

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