The History of White Zinfandel and How it Has Evolved Since the 70’s

Pink-Headed-Step-Child No More

White Zinfandel Finally Gets the Respect It Deserves

white zinfandel

What is the history of White Zinfandel wine

White Zinfandel wine was invented by (happy!) accident. In 1972, winemaker Bob Trinchero was attempting to make his Amador County Zinfandel even more bold. Long an admirer of famously dry French Rosés, he bled off and fermented the free run juice from the Zinfandel grapes. Removing free run juice leaves behind more concentrated and intense red wine and also creates pink juice that can be made into Rosé wine. While the result was not exactly the French-style Rosé he expected, it was still delicious – he sold it in his winery as a tasting room exclusive. 

Fast-forward three years: a batch of this pink-hued Zinfandel experienced “stuck-fermentation” while aging – which means that the fermentation stalled before all the sugar turned to alcohol. It was sweeter, with less alcohol. But it was pleasant and perky, nevertheless. They took it to market and the result was a run-away success. White Zinfandel was born a star. 

Why is it called White Zinfandel?

With the history of White Zinfandel described, you may be wondering how it got its name. White Zinfandel (White Zin) is not white wine, but rather pink. Originally, it was referred to by the French as Oeil de Perdrix which means Eye of the Partridge, a reference to red grapes used to make a white wine. However, laws in the US ruled that it must have an English description and so it was coined White Zinfandel.

In circles of wine-connoisseurs, the mention of white Zinfandel will often draw small smirks and snide comments. Yet it is among the country’s most popular wines in sales year after year. Those who might claim that white Zinfandel lacks complexity are forgetting how truly fun it is. (Who would you invite to a party: complicated and involved or flirty and friendly!?) 

Perhaps some of white Zinfandel’s reputation is a result of first time wine drinkers finding white Zinfandel as a great way to acclimate their young palate. The easy going qualities of White Zinfandel taste–sweet, low in alcohol, and affordable in price,–makes it an easy-to-fall-for starter-wine. But once that novice wine drinker becomes more practiced, they may feel their palate has “outgrown” white Zinfandel’s innocent ways. Shame, that! 


Only blush wines made from Zinfandel grapes are white Zinfandel. Any other blush wine is merely a Rosé.

What are the characteristics of White Zinfandel

The nature of today’s modern white Zinfandel – often called Zinfandel Rosé – walks the perfect line between crowd-pleasing and complex. Zinfandel grapes are picked earlier in the season before the grapes take on the more traditional lush, jammy characteristics of Zinfandel. Then the juice of these early-harvest grapes is fermented until dry – giving the resulting wine a fruit-forward vibe that’s fresh with pert acidity. 

Our very own Martin Cody loves to knock everyone’s socks off by bringing these new-age white Zinfandels to a barbeque. Some might snicker but he stands by his favorite sunny-day sipper and watches as party-goers become white Zinfandel converts before his very eyes. 

White Zinfandel Food Pairings

Our other favorite ways to enjoy white Zinfandel include:

  • The American Thanksgiving table. The light, playful acidity of white Zinfandel cuts through the richness of the butter, bread stuffing, potatoes and gravy that anchor a traditional Thanksgiving table.  
  • A charcuterie board. White Zinfandel plays nice with the rich umami of plucky cured meats, nutty hard cheeses, and the sweet spice of dried fruit and nuts. 
  • At the seaside with your favorite shellfish. White Zinfandel marries so beautifully with the sweetness of shellfish. Think lobster, crab, shrimp, or scallops. 
  • Paired with pasta and cream-sauce. Penne a la Vodka or Fettuccini Alfredo find some much-needed levity when paired with a carefree white Zinfandel. 


Our parting words of advice? Don’t let ego get in the way of enjoying a lovely white Zinfandel from time to time. Whether you’re just starting your journey of loving fine wine or you’re a long-time oenophile, it’s easy to enjoy white Zinfandel’s light-hearted ways. If, of course, you allow yourself. 

 Learn more about all aspects of wine and winemaking on our live SIP Virtual Wine Tasting & Education events featuring Napa and Sonoma winemakers and industry professionals.

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