White Zinfandels are the Best Wines 

White Zinfandel is usually the first wine someone tries. Often referred to as “White Zin,” it is an off-dry to sweet and usually pink-colored wine. It is in the class of wines called rosé but is made from the Zinfandel wine grape which generally produces a spicy, red wine with presence and sophistication. Close to 85 percent of the total Zinfandel wine production is allocated to White Zinfandel, which is not a grape, but a method of processing the Zinfandel grapes.

Beginning wine-drinkers typically enjoy the following characteristics in a White Zinfandel: 

  • Pleasant, sweet taste 
  • Low alcohol – 9-10 percent alcohol by volume (ABV) 
  • Low calories – approximately 125 calories per six ounce serving 

History 

Wine has been consumed for at least 9,000 years. Historians have determined that this was when the earliest vineyards were organized in the Middle East. Vineyards spread through the Mediterranean and the French soon started copying the wine-making process. 

The Zinfandel grape was first made into a rosé wine by the El Pinal Winery in Lodi, California in 1869. Bob Trinchero of Trinchero Family Estates located in Napa Valley, is credited with discovering the current White Zinfandel varietal by accident. The Trincheros had a long history in the Italian wine industry. They purchased the abandoned Sutter Home estate in 1947, and began producing California wines.  

In 1972, while trying to make the Amador County Zinfandel more robust, he bled off some of the juice and fermented it as a “white” wine. The color was actually pale pink due to exposure to the red grape skins. The tasting room clientele enjoyed the lighter-bodied flavor and Sutter Home began selling the wine. It was initially marketed under the name of Oeil de Perdrix (Eye of the Partridge), but was changed to white Zinfandel to comply with the U.S. government requirements that the name be in English. Trinchero is also responsible for coining the term “blush wine” and it was displayed prominently on the White Zinfandel labels. 

One of the many benefits of using the Zinfandel grape for White Zinfandel is that it saved “old vine” vineyards. The popularity of White Zinfandel meant that the “old vine” Zinfandel grape vineyards in California were not destroyed for newer California grapes and white wine grapes which were becoming increasingly popular at the time. 

The Zinfandel grape had unknown origins until recent DNA fingerprinting confirmed that it is genetically identical to Italy’s Primitivo and Croatia’s Crlienak Kastelanski grape varieties. Zinfandel grapes achieve their own specific flavor profile due to the differences in terroir, cultivation, and winemaking styles. Historians agree that the California Zinfandel most probably originated in Croatia when a nursery owner brought cuttings to the United States from Croatia via Austria. Zinfandel is a distinctly American name and was first advertised in Boston in 1832. The Gold Rush was responsible for the introduction of the Zinfandel grape to California, and it thrived in the state’s soil and climate. 

Sutter Home continued producing White Zinfandel in the traditional manner until 1975 when they experienced a stuck fermentation. Basically, the yeast died before it had completed converting all the sugar to alcohol. The resulting wine was higher in alcohol content, but had some sugar remaining which made it sweet. This “new” White Zinfandel was a huge success and Sutter Home began producing the sweet wine in large quantities.  

Today, innovative winemakers are creating dry rosés using the Zinfandel grape and branding them as White Zin. This has led to a resurgence in the popularity of White Zinfandel and a proliferation of winemakers producing the wine. 

Tasting White Zinfandel 

White Zinfandel should be consumed at approximately 54 degrees Fahrenheit which is warmer than a typical refrigerator temperature of 35 degrees Fahrenheit. If the wine is too-cold, the flavors are hidden. Warm your White Zinfandel a little before drinking it so that you can appreciate the soft flavors. It is not a wine that is meant to be aged and should be consumed within six months of bottling. 

Wine drinkers from beginners to professionals all have their preferred method for evaluating wine. The most important factors are whether you enjoy and appreciate the wine you are drinking. The American Wine Society (AWS) has an Evaluation Form with a point system that their members use to address the factors most people utilize to taste wine: 

  • Appearance – 3 points 
  • Aroma/Bouquet – 6 points 
  • Taste/Texture – 6 points 
  • Aftertaste – 3 points 
  • Overall Impressions – 2 points 

Each factor on the form is assigned a point value with an area for observations or critiques. It is important to remain objective and set aside your personal wine likes and dislikes. Focus on the actual observations and sensations that your senses provide to your brain. Put aside your personal wine preferences while tasting and attempt to remain unbiased. With a maximum score of 20, wines scoring between 18-20 are considered Extraordinary, 15-17 are Excellent, and 12-14 are Good. Anything below a 12 is just not worth your time. 

When tasting wine, concentrate on the wines and remember the 6 S’s of Judging: 

  1. See 
  2. Swirl 
  3. Sniff 
  4. Sip 
  5. Savor 
  6. Spit 

There are wine glasses that are specifically meant for rosé wine, but you can use a white wine glass, too. You will notice that the sugar content in White Zinfandel can make it taste like a fruit punch, though the newer White Zinfandels can also have a crisp acidic flavor.  

How to evaluate wine: 

  • Good tasting conditions – Ensure the room is not too noisy or crowded and that there are not any cooking smells, perfumes, or pet odor which could interfere with the wine aroma. 
  • Wine temperature – If the wine served is too cold, warm the wine by cupping the bowl. 
  • How the wine looks – View the wine from above for depth of color and from the side to see the full range of color. Hold the glass up to the light to evaluate for clarity or murkiness. 
  • Swirl the wine around the glass – Wines which slowly run down the side of the glass are usually riper and more mouth-filling than those that run quickly. 
  • Sniff the wine from the top of the glass – Identify key fragrances such as flowers, fruits, and herbs. Also smell for off-aromas like mustiness, burnt matches, or vinegar. The best wine scents are complex, balanced, and harmonious. 
  • Sip your wine and let it circulate throughout your mouth – Discover a range of flowers, fruit, herbs, minerals, barrels, and other flavors and use your taste buds to decide if the wine is complex, balanced, and complete. 

Wine tasting at a vineyard is a lot of fun, but don’t be afraid to experiment on your own. Keep a wine journal where you can save tasting notes for wines that you like and dislike.  

White Zinfandel Options 

Wine Searcher lists over 160 different buying options of White Zinfandel and ranks all wines via a measure of popularity. Popularity is determined by how frequently a wine is searched for across all vintages. The most popular wine is the most searched for wine and the rankings are based on millions of searches made annually. Vivino ratings are on a five star basis and are determined by consumers who have purchased and tasted the wine. 

Best White Zinfandel Under $50 

The best White Zinfandel under $50 is produced by Hiyu Farm’s Smockshop Band under the Spring Ephemeral brand. Smockshop Band is located in Hood River, Oregon and is a working biodynamic farm, restaurant, and vineyard. The White Zinfandel is not sweet and the nose shows a mix of spice, smoke, earth, and soft red fruits. It is light-bodied with moderate acid. 

  • Average Price: $34 
  • Wine Searcher Ranking: 64,306 
  • Vivino Rating: 4.2  

Best White Zinfandels Under $30 

The best White Zinfandel under $30 is Turley White Zinfandel from Napa Valley. Turley picks a small amount of their estate Zinfandel vines early to produce this bright, dry rosé. It is high in acid and low in alcohol – completely refreshing, though more similar to French rosés from Provence. Tasting notes describe the wine as richness in color and balance with an overall impression of freshness with a gorgeous coral color. 

  • Average Price: $25 
  • Wine Searcher Ranking: 70,482 
  • Vivino Rating: 4.0 

Other contenders: 

Chateau Julien Wine Estate Emerald Bay Coastal White Zinfandel 

  • Average Price: $28 
  • Wine Searcher Ranking: 207,766 
  • Vivino Rating: 2.6 

Trinity Oaks White Zinfandel 

  • Average Price: $21 
  • Wine Searcher Ranking: 235,283 

Broc Cellars Sonoma Country White Zinfandel 

  • Average Price: $22 
  • Vivino Rating: 4.1 

Best White Zinfandel Under $20 

Coastal Vines Cellars White Zinfandel has a gorgeous pink salmon color and is slightly acidic. Taste the juicy fruit-flavors of cherry and strawberry with a strong sweet finish. This wine pairs well with seafood, mild cheeses, and spicy Asian cuisine. 

  • Average Price: $16 
  • Wine Searcher Ranking: 62,458 
  • Vivino Rating: 3.5 

Other contenders: 

La Terre Cellars White Zinfandel 

  • Average Price: $15 
  • Wine Searcher Ranking: 64,306 

Sutter Home Reserve White Zinfandel 

  • Average Price: $18 
  • Wine Searcher Ranking: 77,902  
  • Vivino Rating: 3.3 

Best White Zinfandel Under $15 

Wicked Lady White Zinfandel has a rich salmon pink color and is bursting with flavors of sweet strawberries.  

  • Average Price: $11 
  • Wine Searcher Ranking: 38,084  
  • Vivino Rating: 3.8 

Other Contenders: 

Salmon Creek White Zinfandel 

  • Average Price: $11 
  • Wine Searcher Ranking: 41,002  
  • Vivino Rating: 3.5 

Beringer Vineyards California Collection Sparkling White Zinfandel 

  • Average Price: $12 
  • Wine Searcher Ranking: 53,218  

Best White Zinfandel Under $10 

Beringer Vineyards White Zinfandel is sometimes labeled as Zinfandel Rosé. It is light rosé in color, almost pink. The nose is fresh fruits with a hint of candy apple. The wine is very sweet with a slight bitter taste. Described as fresh and delicious with berry fruit flavors and aromas of honeydew and citrus. This White Zinfandel pairs nicely with spicy cuisine. 

  • Average Price: $5 
  • Wine Searcher Ranking: 3,740  
  • Vivino Rating: 3.5 

Other Contenders: 

Canyon Road White Zinfandel 

  • Average Price: $7 
  • Wine Searcher Ranking: 8,264  
  • Vivino Rating: 3.5 

Gallo Family Vineyards White Zinfandel 

  • Average Price: $4 
  • Wine Searcher Ranking: 8,811  
  • Vivino Rating: 3.5 

Sutter Home White Zinfandel 

  • Average Price: $8 
  • Wine Searcher Ranking: 10,459 
  • Vivino Rating: 3.5 

Montevina Amador Country White Zinfandel 

  • Average Price: $7 
  • Wine Searcher Ranking: 103,767  
  • Vivino Rating: 3.7 
White Zinfandel Comparison Chart  
Wine Name  Price   Wine Searcher Ranking  Vivino Rating Best in Category 
Hiyu Farm’s Smockshop Band Spring Ephemeral White Zinfandel  $     34.00                   64,306  3.4 ✔️ 
Turley White Zinfandel  $     25.00                   70,482  4.0 ✔️ 
Chateau Julien Wine Estate Emerald Bay Coastal White Zinfandel  $     28.00                 207,766  2.6   
Trinity Oaks White Zinfandel  $     21.00                 235,283      
Broc Cellars Sonoma Country White Zinfandel  $     22.00    4.1   
Coastal Vines Cellars White Zinfandel   $     16.00                   62,458  3.5 ✔️ 
La Terre Cellars White Zinfandel  $     15.00                   64,306      
Sutter Home Reserve White Zinfandel  $     18.00                   77,902  3.3   
Wicked Lady White Zinfandel   $     11.00                   38,084  3.8 ✔️ 
Salmon Creek White Zinfandel  $     11.00                   41,002  3.5   
Beringer Vineyards California Collection Sparkling White Zinfandel  $     12.00                   53,218    ✔️ 
Beringer Vineyards White Zinfandel   $       5.00                     3,740  3.5   
Canyon Road White Zinfandel  $       7.00                     8,264  3.5   
Gallo Family Vineyards White Zinfandel  $       4.00                     8,811  3.5   
Sutter Home White Zinfandel  $       8.00                   10,459  3.5   
Montevina Amador Country White Zinfandel  $       7.00                 103,767  3.7   

White Zinfandel Pairings 

There are many ways to enjoy White Zinfandel whether on a hot summer day, a fancy cocktail hour, or an intimate dinner party. It is a delicious complement to a wide variety of tapas or appetizers. A well-balanced White Zinfandel has enough acidity to counter the sweetness and complements creamy pasta dishes, mild cheeses, rich pork, or salmon. It is also a good accompaniment to spicy Asian, Mexican, Creole, or Indian dishes. The light and citrusy flavor is versatile and an enjoyable addition to any meal. 

Conclusion 

In the 1970s and 1980s, White Zinfandel reigned supreme. Americans loved the sweet pink wine produced from California’s Zinfandel grape. It was a common component in wine spritzers and sangria. Today, the new winemakers are producing some new, completely dry, White Zinfandel wines that even the snobbiest sommeliers have begun recommending to patrons. American winemakers are even beginning to earn some significant market share from rosé wine producers from Provence. White Zin now accounts for more than 10 percent of all wine sold in America. 

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