White Zinfandel: Born By Accident But Still Going Strong


Wine’s 1972 discovery credited to vintner Bob Trinchero

Mention the sweet pink, white Zinfandel to wine connoisseurs and you’ll get snide remarks to the effect that no one who knows anything about wine drinks it anymore. But they would be wrong.

White Zinfandel is a slightly sweet wine made from the red-skinned Zinfandel grape. It gets its rosy pink color from the grape skins after they are crushed and quickly removed from the juice. The remaining process is the same as for white wine.

Most white Zinfandel is sold in retail outlets, but many chains and independents in the casual dinnerhouse segment carry it, and some are introducing new wine cocktails made with it.

Sales of white Zinfandel produced in California declined slightly in 2010 to about 17 million cases, down from 17.8 million cases in 2009, according to estimates compiled by Gomberg, Fredrikson & Associates, a wine industry consulting firm of Woodside, Calif. “It’s still huge, but many other slightly sweet casual wines compete,” says Eileen Fredrikson, who cited Moscato as the hottest up-and-coming comparable wine in today’s market.

White Zinfandel’s discovery is credited to Bob Trinchero of Trinchero Family Estates, located in the Napa Valley. The 1972 discovery came about quite by accident.

Bob is descended from the first generation of Trincheros to locate in Napa Valley, brothers John and Mario Trinchero, who stemmed from a family with a long history in the Italian wine business. In 1947, they purchased the abandoned Sutter Home estate, which had been shut down during Prohibition, and they began producing a variety of wines.

The next generation, Bob Trinchero and his siblings, inherited stewardship of the winery in the late 1960s and began putting their own stamp on the wines. They began shifting focus from generic to premium varietal wines.

Trinchero was especially drawn to a homemade Zinfandel made from grapes grown in the California Gold Rush country, the Sierra Foothills. He started producing Amador County Zinfandel and was a pioneer in Zinfandel production under the Sutter Home label.


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