Lifestyle & opinion

In praise of zin

Sarah Knowles MW remembers how her early experiences with zinfandel shaped her love of this grape.

In praise of zin

I began my wine awakening through the process of learning how to blind taste. In this context “zin” quickly became a favourite for its distinctive cherry laden, sweet and sour, full bodied style. As I explored, I also found that many widely available zins offered great value, with early purchases or Brazin, Ravenswood or Wente proving a hit with my friends and family who (it was the early 2000’s) had to that point really only associated zin with fairly sweet vivid rosé.

A few years into my career in the wine trade, I inevitably and wonderfully came across Ridge’s remarkable zinfandels, introducing me to the world of “fine wine” zin. Although a little cheaper then, following a comprehensive tasting from Paul Draper I was hooked and, still to this day, always buy a case or two of Geyserville and Lytton Springs each release, picking up the more hard to find Ridge zins on trips to the states.

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It wasn’t until 2015 however, when I was fortunate enough to have dinner with Joel Peterson (some would argue the Godfather of zin) that I discovered quite how ageworthy the grape can be. Over dinner Joel was kind enough to open bottles of classic single vineyard Ravenswood zins from the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s, all of which demonstrated just how brilliantly these wines can age. They also surprised me, as my notes range from comparisons to classic Italian aged wines – Chianti as well as Amarone, with wines displaying dried cherry, sour redcurrant and balsamic savoury tones as well as rosemary, leather and black tea backed by firm acidity; I also saw similarities to older Rioja and Southern Rhone wines with richer strawberry tones, bitter chocolate, and sweeter coconut flavours on many.

Ravens wood

These tastings are now why my reserves have so many cases of serious zinfandel, waiting to be enjoyed nestled in alongside the more typical claret and Chianti. However I have to admit that my love of great value youthful zin too continues to this day with Sobon, Brazin and Paris Valley Road all on the wine rack ready for the sun to return and the BBQ to go on!

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Sarah Knowles MW

Society Buyer

Sarah Knowles MW

Sarah joined The Society in March 2014 and has taken over responsibility for Champagne, North America and Italy, as well as overseeing our portfolio of sparkling wines and spirits. Sarah passed her Masters of Wine qualification in 2015 and won a prize for submitting the best research paper.

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