Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Last Night's Tipple

Wanna know who, more than anyone else, is responsible for the large number of good red Zinfandel wines that are available from California? It's Bob Trinchero of Sutter Home winery. Sutter Home makes a red Zin, but that's not why Trinchero is responsible for red Zin in California. He's responsible because he's the person who made a commercial success out of white Zinfandel wine. In red vitis vinifera grapes, all of the pigment is in the skins. The juice from red grapes is the same color as the juice from white grapes. Wine becomes red when it sits on its skins (or, rather, usually below its skins) while it's fermenting. Therefore, it's possible to make white wine from red grapes by separating the juice from the skins immediately after crushing; and it's possible to make pink wine from red grapes by separating the skins from the juice after a short duration of contact. Other wineries had made white Zinfandel and pink Zinfandel before. Sutter Home made it honest-to-God bubblegum pink, and they made it off-dry. It became such a huge success that every other winery imitated them. Making all that white Zinfandel required a whole heck of a lot of Zinfandel grapes, and it provided the financial incentive that grape growers needed to stop tearing out their old Zinfandel vines and replacing them with Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot.

So, thank you, Bob Trinchero. If it weren't for you, the vines that Ridge and Ravenswood and all the other great producers of red Zinfandel rely on might have long since gone the way of the dodo, and that would be a shame.

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