How is white Zinfandel made?

Ask Dr Vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.

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.

Dear Fred,

I’d say that the majority of white Zinfandel is made the same way it was when it was invented in the early 1970s at Sutter Home: from red wine grapes 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 wine grapes, 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.

—Dr. Vinny

Rosé Red Wines Zinfandel Ask Dr. Vinny

More In Dr. Vinny

Is it OK to brush my teeth before tasting wine? Does toothpaste change the way wine tastes?

Wine Spectator's resident wine expert Dr. Vinny explains why brushing your teeth and wine …

Sep 26, 2022

What’s the difference between Hermitage and Ermitage? Are they the same wine?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains what the H is going on with Hermitage vs. …

Sep 19, 2022

When traveling, are any wines more or less susceptible to bottle shock than others?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains the phenomenon of "bottle shock" and how to …

Sep 12, 2022

What’s the best way to remove a crumbly wine cork? I’ve tried everything!

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny offers tips for extracting crumbly corks, and how to …

Sep 7, 2022

What’s the difference between Petite Sirah and Syrah?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains that Syrah and Petite Sirah have quite a bit in …

Aug 29, 2022

I have about 50 bottles of wine. Should I buy a wine fridge?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny offers advice for when to upgrade your wine storage at …

Aug 22, 2022