Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs. You can also follow me on Twitter: @AskDrVinny.
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Dear Dr. Vinny,
How is white Zinfandel made? Is it a blend of red and white wines? Or is it made by limiting skin contact with the grapes?
—Fred F., Columbia, Mo.
I’d say that the majority of white Zinfandel is made the same way as it was invented in the early 1970s at Sutter Home: from red winegrapes with limited exposure to the skins. Keep in mind that white Zin tends to be sweeter than other rosés, because typically the winemaker will halt fermentation before all the sugar is converted to alcohol. But when the residual sweetness, acidity and alcohol are all in balance, the wine can still be refreshing.
While I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some winemakers making a blush wine that blends red Zinfandel grapes with white winegrapes, keep in mind that for a wine to be labeled “Zinfandel”—even a white version—it must be made from at least 75 percent Zinfandel grapes, according to labeling laws.
It seems every time I write about white Zinfandel, I get some hate mail from folks that cant stand it, and are quick to point out that it’s not a “real” wine. I disagree. White Zinfandel accounts for about 10 percent of the wines sold in the United States, and was an appealing way for a lot of wine novices to start to learn about wine—myself included! That’s nothing to scoff about.
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