Zinspiring Blaauwklippen

Monday, 18 March, 2013
Shante Hutton, wine.co.za
What a fitting way to spend an afternoon during our ‘Oddballs’ month, than with Rolf Zeitvogel of Blaauwklippen wine estate, tasting and comparing Zinfandels.
In all honesty, the only relationship that Zinfandel and I have had is of me laughing at the ‘Friends don’t let friends drink Zinfandel’ pins on Pinterest. Terrible I know. I’ve passed on an entire variety just because of Pinterest!

If, like me, you are/were unfamiliar with the variety, Zinfandel, for starters, is a red grape. It’s highly popular in America, growing abundantly in California vineyards yet it also finds a home in Australia and in our soil. It is said to be identical to Primitivio, an Italian grape that was brought to California in 1968. Yet both grapes are said to come from Crljenak Kaštelanski, a Croatian indigenous variety.

It is quite a vigorous grape and like any high school ‘popular’ clique, it hangs in tight bunches which needs to be occasionally pruned lest the inner grapes begin to rot.

It ripens earlier than most varieties and has high sugar levels making it great for late-harvest, dessert wines. It also is heavily alcoholic which in my eyes, makes it great for Winter time.

Bear in mind, prices are higher per bottle as the upkeep and harvest is difficult.

In short, its characteristics are as follows:
  • High sugar content.
  • They are often higher in alcohol content.
  • Lots of red berry flavours on the nose and palate. Think Strawberries and cherries.
  • It often has a jammy flavour and you can sometimes pick up stewed fruit in the nose.
  • Richness and depth.

Its home in South Africa is at Blaauwklippen who, as far as I know, remain one of the few albeit the only wine farm that produces and sells Zinfandel (Idiom and Zevenwacht label theirs as Primitivo).

For their ‘zinspiring’ tasting, we were presented with a flight of wines, 4 from Australia and 1 from Blaauwklippen.

Cape Mentelle Zinfandel 2010.
(Margaret River, Western Australia)

- A violet reflection, young and vibrant looking.
- Smoke and herbs on the nose.
- Chewy tannins and a rather flat coke aftertaste.

Cargo Road Zinfandel 2010.
(New South Wales, In Orange country)

- Red brick almost amber appearance.
- sweet dusty aroma mixed with prunes and dates.
- Quite gutsy with a strong flavour of tomato jam.
- It has a high alcohol content of 16.7% so in my eyes, it would be great as a winter warmer.

According to Graham Howe, it is the truest of the bunch in that it was the most similar to the Zinfandels of Croatia. It was relatively unliked by the majority present as it exuded a jammy, stewed fruits aftertaste and when left for a while, the acid diminished leaving it rather flat.

Smallwater Estate Zinfandel  2009.
(Western Australia)
- It reminded me of BBQ sticky ribs but one could also get nutmeg, blackcurrant and rhubarb on the nose.
- Light and soft with a touch of honey and strawberry crumble.
- High residual sugar acts as a buffer to all the flavours and it is far more subtle than the previous wines.
- A firm favourite with everyone.

Peel Estate Zinfandel 2007.
(Just outside Perth)
- Was a far deeper colour than the others.
- As undesirable as this sounds, it smelt like cabbage/stir fry veg but it wasn't unpleasant.
- Quite chewy tannins and a lasting figgy pudding taste.
- There was a unrefined alcohol taste though, again, a good winter wine.

Blaauwklippen vineyards Zinfandel reserve 2011.
- matured in French and Romanian oak, it had a toast/mocha aroma.
- Chewy tannins and a dry finish, it would definitely keep for 3-4 years more.

Obviously, you might struggle to get your hands on those Australian wines that we tasted but I do recommend that you head to Blaauwklippen (on Sundays they have market day) and try their Zinfandels on offer. It’s quite a luscious wine so be prepared for a big mouth-feel.

For fitting it into your everyday, have a look at these fab pairing ideas here.

Rolf Zeitvogel
Rolf Zeitvogel

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