Although Zinfandel are remarkably food friendly, the best pairings are when Zinfandel is matched with rich and robust foods. The range of Zinfandel’s body might fall somewhere between medium and full-bodied and thus should be matched accordingly.
Examples of Matching Zin to Food:
- Strong-flavoured foods such as Mexican dishes, Indian Cuisine (such as Butter Chicken), or Pakistani and North African preparations. Beware, however, as a hearty Zin will overwhelm the more delicate dishes from these cultures.
- Zinfandel and Barbecued food of all styles! The sweeter the Barbecue Sauce, the lighter style of Zinfandel should be used.
- With Game and Roasted Red Meats. The monster truck and densely flavoured Zinfandel is great with venison, roasted lamb and grilled steak. Accompany the dish with a fruit-based sauce or marinade for pure heaven.
- Zinfandel and Chinese Food Takeout is fabulous, as it mixes well with everything from Sweet and Sour Spareribs, to red-sauce drenched chicken balls and pork fried rice.
Don’t Match Zin with:
- Red Zinfandel with most fish. While it is possible with the lighter styles of Zinfandel, it’s a difficult match.
- With Fiery Hot food. Given the tannin and alcoholic content of most Zinfandel, this combination would be painful. So Spicy Chili is out, but regular Chili is good to go
- With Delicate Foods. The food would just be overshadowed by the Zin’s bold personality
- When it’s too old, an aged Zinfandel is more like an aged Merlot or Cabernet, reacting differently with food than its younger, more flavour packed version.
Digging Deeper into the Styles of Zinfandel
This is often blush coloured, with an off-dry sweetness
Treat White Zinfandel like you would an off-dry white Riesling. (White Zinfandel tends to have less acidity and more alcohol, so adjust seasonings accordingly to accommodate)
Chilled White Zinfandel’s such as Sutter Home White Zinfandel go extremely well with:
- Ketchup Slathered Burgers
- Aromatic Curries
- Spicy Asian food (but not fiery hot… the white Zinfandel is too high in alcohol and would be more painful in your mouth than pleasurable)
- Sweet Barbecue Sauces (Texas Style)
Grapey, Jammy and Juicy Red Zinfandel
These have softer tannins, and moderate alcohol. Some examples might be Ravenswood, Tin Barn, Haywood Estates and Seven Deadly Zins. When slightly chilled, (to bring out the fruit flavours) they pair up nicely with:
- Baked Beans
- Sweet Barbecue Sauces
- Beef Jambalaya
- Cheddar, Teleme and aged Gouda
- Chinese Takeout
- Cold Cut Sandwiches
- Pulled Pork
- Spicy Foods (but not fiery hot food)
Medium to Full Bodied Zinfandel
Very similar in taste and style to a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Bordeaux and should be matched as such.
Gauge the body of the Zin and match the weight of the food to that of the wine as you would a Cabernet Sauvignon or Bordeaux.
These are Monster Trucks in a bottle! Huge, rustic style wines that are generous in alcohol and bursting with peppery ripe fruit. They pair nicely with:
- Rich Pasta Dishes
- BBQ Ribs
- Hearty Pizzas
- Grilled Sausages
- Heavy Stews
- Robust Red Meats like Ribeye Steak, and Game
- These Chewy Zinfandel are not friendly with most fish or shellfish
Port like Zinfandel
In some cases the fruit in the Zinfandel is almost too ripe and prune-flavoured
These pair up nicely with Creamy, Blue Veined and Mature Cheeses
Bitter desserts that like less sugary, gooey chocolate desserts that stress nuts and coconut.
With Zinfandel, older vines always make more concentrated and complex wines.
Look for wines from California’s Sonoma Country (Especially the Dry Creek or Russian River), Napa Valley, Amador County, Lodi, San Luis Obispo and the Mendocino Ridge sub-appellation.
While there is no ‘legal definition’ for reserve, the term generally means that the fruit comes from vines that are at least thirty years old. Many vines are fifty to seventy-five years old, if not older.