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Home Winners > Winners 2012 > NEW WORLD: Zinfandel

Winner Details

New World: Zinfandel

Big and powerful by nature they might be, but to get medals Zins had to back up their heft with a bit of counterbalancing freshness

Now in the second year of ‘category independence’, having hived off from the Other Reds group in 2011, Zin is developing into quite a nice, solid part of the Sommelier Wine Awards.

All but one of the entries was Californian, as you’d expect, but they came from right across the Golden State. So although Zin is never likely to win too many awards for subtlety – ‘It’s like a muscle car, bold and powerful,’ mused consultant Caspar Auchterlonie – there were opportunities for winemakers to do a bit of customisation on that solid bodywork.

Typically, the wines were dense and perfumed, making big statements – often with a bit more on the nose than the palate, but tasters could definitely see a use for them.

‘These Zins have a touch of sweetness, which is useful for Chinese food where you have a bit of that in the marinade, especially plum-based sauces,’ said James Teng of Hakkasan.

The Smoking Loon Old Vine Zin was popular right from the off, and duly picked up a place on the Gold List, with tasters loving its easy-drinking By the Glass potential; a generous wine offering a lot of flavour and at a very good price.

The key to success here, though, was not just volume. As well as a blasting brass section, our tasters wanted to be able to hear a bit of strings as well.

‘Those that stood out were either lighter or better balanced,’ said The Rookery’s Mark Angell. ‘They showed a bit of character beyond just fruit.’

All of the medal winners ticked that box, with a balancing acidity that went right the way through the palate, to give wines that were rich, spicy and soft. A little alcoholic, sure, but not in a bad way, and capable of food matching beyond burgers, too.

‘With its generosity and freshness, the Seghesio would pair well with rich game such as pigeon, venison and other strongly flavoured meat,’ said Galvin Restaurants’ Andrea Bricarello.

To get two wines on the Gold List at different prices showed that our tasters enjoyed its rough-and-tumble charms.

‘Zin may not be the most complex or elegant wine, but there is definitely a following because people like its easy-going, rich, spicy, soft tannins and slightly alcoholic style,’ said consultant Peter McCombie MW.

‘All the wines we tasted were pretty classic. They had identity. But the key to Zin is acidity – you need that to balance the ripe fruit or it tars the palate.’ Serdar Balkaya, Hakkasan

‘For rich, spicy, plummy sauces, Zin is a really good wine, but it can’t be lacking in acidity.’ James Teng, Hakkasan