01/29/2015 05:00 EST | Updated 03/30/2015 05:59 EDT

Zinfandel: recommendations and food pairings for the elusive red wine

Zinfandel is making a comeback, says On the Coast's wine columnist Barb Phillip — here's what you need to know about the elusive red wine.

Zinfandel 101

Zinfandel, also known as primitivo, is fruit-forward, high in alcohol, and structurally soft.

It was originally a European variety, developed in Croatia in the 1300s. But because it's better suited to the climate in California it's become the state's signature grape.

Phillip recommends looking for a Zinfandel that balances the rich blueberry and blackberry fruit with some spiciness to give it some finesse.

Zinfandel recommendations

Ravenswood Old Vine Zinfandel

Grown in a region of California that's very well-suited for this varietal, the Ravenswood Old Vine Zinfandel is a soft, plush and very black-fruited wine.

Ridge Vineyards Zinfandel

Possibly the finest Zinfandel produced, according to Phillips. The Ridge Vineyards Zinfandel offers complexity with a bit of finesse. It's aromatic, floral and fruity. Also, it will age nicely in a cellar.


Hendry Wines has some of the oldest vines in California, dating back to 1888. Their zinfandel is rich, with velvety tannins and big flavour.


A simple, spicy, black-fruited wine produced in the Puglia region of Italy by Miopasso.

Zinfandel food pairings

The Zinfandel's sweet black-fruitedness goes well with a sharp, salty old cheddar. It also pairs nicely with game.

To listen to the full interview with our wine columnist, click on the audio labelled: All about Zinfandel