How is white Zinfandel made?

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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.

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

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