Rugged, full-bodied and full-flavored, Zin - as almost everyone calls it - is about as big and honest as a grape can be.
While Zinfandel has been a Californian specialty since the mid-19th century, America doesn't have a monopoly on this gutsy grape. You can find Zin in Chile, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and even in some French vineyards.
Zinfandel may have made its name in California, but it actually hails from southern Italy. Used for everything from rather insipid rosé to astonishingly rich and heady fortified wines, perhaps its best role is in making heart-warming, barbecue-friendly reds.
DNA testing may have confirmed that Zinfandel is the same as the Primitivo grape of Puglia, in southern Italy, but its adopted home is California. Canny wine lovers should by-pass the rather bland, sweet pink wines labeled Blush or White Zinfandel, and head for the powerful throaty reds, which pack in flavors of brambles, blackberries, spice and smoke.
While California wears the Zin crown, other countries have now jumped on the Zin bandwagon, often with considerable success. Look out too for modern Puglian versions, in which the heady bramble character is lifted by a twist of Italian sourness.
It is not unknown for Zinfandel to reach alcohol levels of 17 percent or higher.
What is the motto of top Californian Zinfandel producer Ravenswood?
'No Wimpy Wines.'