Why is White Zinfandel Pink? Here’s Why!

When the run-off juice of the red Zinfandel was shortly exposed to the red grape skins during a stuck fermentation process, the resulting dry rose became pink in colour.

During the production of a good old-fashioned red Zinfandel, Bob Trinchero took some run-off juice and put it in a separate tank to ferment, to leave the original wine Juice concentrated. He intended to make the traditional red Zinfandel more robust.

During this process, one of the rose batches didn’t ferment completely, that is, the yeast died before it ingested the whole sugar, therefore, the resulting white Zin became pink with a sweet taste that sold like wildfire. It is safe to say Trinchero’s mistake became a global miracle.

What is White Zinfandel?

White zin is a dry sweet, flavourful and fun wine produced from red Zinfandel grapes. White Zins’s rosy pink colour stems from its run-off with the grape skins after they are crushed and extracted from the juice.

White Zinfandel is a varietal of wine that usually gets overlooked by wine enthusiasts because of its reputation as a cheap, pink, sweet drink. However, recent White zinfandels are different from people’s perspectives from the old Zins.

Many of the new white Zinfandel are sophisticated, dry and delectable, they are excellent choices for weekend brunch with friends and families, and they also do well with light meats.

White zinfandel can be called a sister in the rose family made from a stuck fermentation process. It is made from black and blue-hued wine grapes and despite the very dark skins of these grapes, Zinfandel grapes are light centred and the pale pink colour of the white zin comes from the rub-off with the red grapes during the fermentation process.

Furthermore, Zinfandel grapes, are quite similar genetically to the Primitivo grape and other old-world wine varieties in Croatia and Italy. The taste notes of White Zinfandel might be slightly different.

This is because, the climate, soil, and terrain of the region where it’s been produced affect the taste of the wine. Depending on the terroir, fermentation process and a host of other factors, the Zinfandel grapes may produce notes of raspberry, cranberry, raisins, plum and other flavours.

History of White Zinfandel

Bob was from the first generation of Trincheros to find the Napa Valley, he and his brothers John and Mario Trinchero hailed from a family with an outstanding pedigree in the Italian wine industry.

In the year 1947, the Trinchero family bought an abandoned Sutter Home estate, which had been previously shut down. In the late 1960s, Bob and his Trinchero brothers took over the custody of the winery and soon began to put their imprint on the wines.

They began to steer the winery towards producing more premium varietal wines rather than the usual generic wines. Bob was particularly, attracted to the homemade Zinfandel produced from grapefruits cultivated in the California Gold rush country, the Sierra Foothills.

He started by manufacturing Amador County Zinfandel which became a pioneer in Zinfandel production with the Sutter Home label.

In 1948, the winemakers at Sutter home in California were attempting to produce a much deeper, bolder and more intense red Zinfandel wine. To achieve this, the family decided to reduce the juice-to-skin ratio, and crush out about 500 gallons of the liquids.

It was at this moment that Bob Trinchero and his crew came up with Zin’s life-changing idea. The liquid had only been sitting with the grape skins for just a few days when they noticed it had slightly turned into a pale pink colour. Instead of wasting the excess liquid, Trinchero decided to sell it as a rose.

They bottled it and branded it under the name White Zinfandel. The first White Zinfandel wine was made purely for profit and not for taste. However, another accident scaled the whit Zin popularity to an entirely new level.

A Rise to stardom and a Fall from Grace

In 1975, Sutter home was making a batch of white Zinfandel, the batch experienced a phenomenon called stuck fermentation. Stuck fermentation is a process where the Yeast in a liquid dies completely before the total or complete conversion of the sugars into alcohol.

As a result of the leftover sugar, the resulting wine became unexpectedly sweet. This happy accident led to plummeting sales of the White Zinfandel during this period. 

Shortly after this incident, several wineries started tagging along with this cost-effective winemaking technique.

They began to bottle their excess juice from Red zinfandel wine, they branded it White Zinfandel. Since the production cost the winemakers little to nothing, White Zinfandel became one of the cheapest wines in the world.

Over the years, White Zinfandel wine became widely known as “the box wine”. The box reduced the cost further and in the 80s, White Zinfandel had become the hit mixer for cheap sangrias and spritzers. The cheap price also became its downfall as many wine enthusiasts started giving negative reviews, likening its taste to “just drinking from a box”.

The new white Zinfandel wine

In the new world, it is thought that White Zinfandel was the catalyst that ignited the rise of rose wine.

In the 70s, Mateus Rose, a foreshadow of the Sutter Home, was the most popular wine around the globe. It accounted for over 3.5 million cases and about 40% of Portugal’s exports.

The increasing global market of white Zinfandel meant that there was a steady increase in awareness of sweet rose wines too.

Making White Zinfandel

Making White Zinfandels can be quite tasking, with every winemaking decision critical to the production and final result (a slightly sweet Zin, with low alcohol levels with the usual pink colour). To make things easy, just pay much attention to “white” and your winemaking process will be headed in the right direction.

Here is how;

Pick your grapes earlier than you used to for red wines. This is because you need to lower the alcohol level while adding more acidity to your White Zin to balance the residual sugar, therefore, target Brix levels between 21-23.5 and a pH of around 3.20 to 3.40

Pres before fermentation and not after. The skin contact time determines how dark the colour of the wine would be. So you can regulate this by decreasing or increasing the skin contact time to suit your taste. O

ne of the easiest ways to make pink wine at home is to tread on the grapes with your feet in their containers and let them sit out for just a little time. Ensure that the picking container is air fitted and pay detailed attention to the colour of the juices released until it meets your desire.

Also, it is expedient to make the juices a bit darker than what you initially preferred as some shades of hue will be lost to fermentation, ageing, fining and filtering.

Alter the acids and pH levels until it meets your taste. You can add a bit of tartaric acid to bring the pH down.

Select a yeast to maximize the fruity aromas

Fermentation: unlike red wine fermentation, where the temperatures are kept high at about 33 degrees Celsius, White Zinfandel is fermented cool at a temperature of 14 to 17 degrees Celsius. Cold fermentation helps you to preserve the crispness and fruity aromas.

If you want your White Zinfandel to be perceptively dry, you can arrest the fermentation process by chilling, addition of SO2 and filtration. You can also achieve this by adding some residual sugar and some potassium sorbate to stop the fermentation in the wine bottle.

Heat and cold stabilize: White Zinfandel is best when it’s crystal clear with no sediments. You can achieve this by adding a little quantity of bentonite for protein stability and cold stabilisation.

Bottle your white Zinfandel with free SO2 of at least 30ppm. This is dependent on the pH of the resulting wine.

Make sure to drink your white Zinfandel within a year. This is because, unlike red wines which age for years, pink wines have a shorter shelf life.

White Zinfandel; Taste Profile

 White Zinfandel has a taste of light citrus and red fruit flavours. In this article, we had previously established that the notes in every glass vary depending on the terroir, vintage, and winemaker.

For instance, grapes grown in the cooler regions will give notes of raspberry, and even strawberry could be significant, while the grapes grown in the warmer regions produce notes of cherry, pepper, or anise and hints of blackberry.

Generally, White Zinfandel wine is a pleasant blend of floral and fruit with soft but crisp acidity and it is a great wine to drink during the cool of the evening or to pair with several meals.

Though some people think White Zinfandel contains very high calories because of its sweetness. However, the White Zin calories per glass are lower than those of many popular wines like Sauvignon blanc, Riesling, and Chardonnay.

Food Pairings

When tasked with pairing your wine with several meals, the first thing that comes to mind is, is the White Zinfandel wine dry or sweet? This question is important because wines in each of these two categories have their perfect pairing match.

A sweet White Zinfandel wine will pair well with any of the following;

  • Soft cheeses
  • Pasta dishes
  • Finger foods
  • Smoked meats

Whilst dry White Zinfandel wine still tastes well with those pairings above, it is especially delectable when paired with the following;

  • Blue cheeses
  • Fish
  • Salads
  • Crab cakes
  • Fresh or roasted vegetables
  • Acidic foods like tomatoes and citrus

Also, White Zinfandel wines are well suited to Indian foods, barbecue pork, lamb, egg dishes and desserts. It can also be a nice wine for thanksgiving dinner, it is a perfect pair for turkey and veggie side dishes.

Why is it Called White Zinfandel?

The Law in the USA states that the Oeil de Perdrix must have an English description, hence, Bob Trinchero renamed the prestigious wine, White Zinfandel. It was formerly, named Oeil de Perdrix, meaning, Eye of the Patridge. This term is used in France to describe a red grape used in making White wines.

Differences Between White Zinfandel and Rose

White Zinfandel belongs to the rose family. They both have pink colours but have different tastes. White Zinfandel tastes sweeter and is milder than most Rose wine.

Is White Zinfandel Affordable?

White Zinfandel is a very cheap wine. Its fruity flavour along with its affordability was one of the reasons it became popularly accepted and loved by people.

Here are some of the best bottles of White Zinfandel trending in today’s wine market.

Turley Wine Cellars (Napa Valley White zinfandel)

Broc Cellars White Zinfandel

A new-school California winemaker, Chris Brockway seems to be rediscovering the advantages of Zinfandel with wines such as his bright, fruity, white Zin. This Zin comes with a hint of mineral tones. Only 135 cases of this wine were made. This wine costs $23

This White Zinfandel wine is especially dry, with low alcohol. Since its introduction in 2011, it has emerged as a cult favourite on hip wine lists all over the USA. This bottle costs $7

Montevina Amador County White Zinfandel

The Montevina family is widely known for making White Zinfandels for several decades. However, their dry white Zinfandel won a gold medal. It is perfect for a cool evening with meats and fresh sea foods. This bottle cost $7.

Conclusion: Why is White Zinfandel Pink? Here’s Why!

White zinfandel is pink in colour because of the rub-off on the grape’s skin during a stuck fermentation process. White zinfandel has become a popular wine in the wine business today.

Thanks to Trinchero’s mistake which later became a mind-blowing discovery. White Zinfandel is a happy mistake that has continued to please several wine enthusiasts decades after decades.

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