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White Zinfandel: The Commonly Unique Wine

Rosé wines have amassed a worldwide reputation. Many wine drinkers have become loyal fans of the many styles of rosé. But one style of rosé in particular was the first popular style in the USA. If you don’t know what it is, it’s time to explore another exciting aspect of wine history.

Let’s travel to a historic day when in the pursuit of creating a new wine style, Bob Trinchero and his team produced a sweet liquid that came to be known as White Zinfandel.

The Happy Experiment

By the late 1960s, Sutter Home had earned a solid reputation among the general public for producing popular wines. In effort to improve their wines, Sutter Home began experimenting. In the early 1970s, Bob Trinchero began using a French winemaking method called Saignée. This method consists of removing part of the grape juice from the grape skins and juice maceration when making a red wine.

This makes the final red wine more concentrated, while giving the winemaker pink-colored grape juice to make a rosé. Bob Trinchero would make a classic red Zinfandel, and then draw off some juice to make his red wine more concentrated. This pink colored juice became the first White Zinfandel. 

The first vintage of White Zinfandel was dry and only slightly pink. After several vintages the wine began to be made in a sweeter and more colorful style. 

White Zinfandel

The New Taste

The sweetness of the wine was its standout trait, and its low price point was able to attract customers in large quantities. As the team expected, customers were attracted to the new flavor and low price, and it quickly grew in popularity. In fact, the sales for White Zinfandel became several times higher than their original Zinfandel. Based on its unique color, Sutter Home named the wine ‘White Zinfandel.’

Problems Start Piling Up

However, not long after this new style was born, Sutter Home’s White Zinfandel started losing marketshare, primarily due to rising competition. The newfound American flavor was in-demand, and other producers began making a similar style of wine.

The next big hit to White Zinfandel was the introduction of other styles of rosé. In the early 2000’s more rosé wines began to be imported into the USA, especially from France. 

Provence Rosé – The Oldest Rosé Wine

Rosé made in Provence, a wine region in the south of France, began gaining popularity in the early 2000’s. This wine was the opposite of White Zinfandel, it was dry, acidic, light. Similar to the origins of White Zinfandel, Provence rosé wine was also produced in an attempt to intensify the region’s red wine.

Did You Know: Provence rosé is made with a blend of grapes including Cinsault, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Evidence suggests that the Ancient Greeks started wine production around 2,600 years ago in Provence with rosé wine. However, the technique used to produce the wine was different than today’s. Today’s process was revolutionized after the Second World War, and since 1976 the more modern method has been almost exclusively used.

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The White Zinfandel Market Today

Despite plenty of competition, Sutter Home’s White Zinfandel still holds a reasonably strong position in the American market. In 2018, it occupied 28.1% of the White Zinfandel market; the proportion rose to more than 71% for selected bottle types of the same flavor.

Want to read more? Try these books!

Zinfandel- A History of a Grape and Its Wine (California Studies in Food and Culture Book 10) Zinfandel- Beginners Guide to Wine (101 Publishing- Wine Series)


Categories: This Day in Wine History | Articles, Wine VarietiesTags: , , , By Published On: March 26, 2022Last Updated: February 26, 2024

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