Similar to quite a number of grape varieties, Zinfandel has a controversial past. There appears to be conjecture as to its lineage. Its origins were believed to be a twin of the Primitivo variety of Italy's Puglia region and as having a relationship to the Plavic Mali grape from the former Yugoslav republic of Croatia. However, DNA profiling has now indicated that its genetic root goes back to the grape Crljenak Kasteljanski, which was grown in the Dalmatia province of Croatia. There is even research that suggests original plantings migrating there from Greece.
Zinfandel or 'Zin' as the Yanks prefer to call it, arrived in the United States in the early nineteenth century and despite a hiccup or two along the way, is now considered a signature American wine and the mainstay particularly of the California viticulture scene, popularity and proliferation wise. Our good buddies from across the pond would have us believe that it is their indigenous variety but the truth appears to be that in terms of vitis vinifera vines, it will be the closest they get to an all American variety. Be that as it may, the Yanks are responsible for Zinfandel's prominence on the world's wine stage creating not just the dry and sweet red wine styles but also the uber-popular rose/blush White Zinfandel that caters to the American white wine-drinking consumer market.
In Australia, Zinfandel hasn't fared as well owing to its similarity to Shiraz and our tradition with this mainstream variety. Margaret River's Cape Mentelle was the first winery to take up the cudgels in the early 1990's and now seems to be the benchmark for Zinfandel in this country. The grape tends to do well in warmer climates where its susceptibility to bunch rot, mildew and uneven ripening - even within the same bunch - may not be an issue.
This 2009 Elderton Zinfandel is part of the company's Estate Range with the grapes sourced from vineyards in the Greenock sub-region of the Barossa Valley and the Eden Valley. In the glass it exhibits rich dark purple colours. Lifted jammy berry fruit sweetness on the aromatics incorporates hints of spice and plum that flow into a lively textured wine. Pepper of the black variety and chocolate complete the full bodied, dense palate. A little coarse in places, not aided by the heavy heat, which subtracted from the enjoyment. In short, a wine of good balance between its savoury and varietal fruit components but to me, this version wasn't overly generous, there was something missing, a knock out punch perhaps that would have pushed it over the line. A variety to consider as an alternative to Shiraz and one I'll explore further in future posts.
Source: Retail Purchase. Alcohol: 16.0%. Closure: Screwcap. Rating: 87 Points.