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GOOD BETTER BEST WHITE ZINFANDEL

By Carolyn Evans Hammond, October 22, 2010.

Nothing says you know wine like the words, White Zinfandel is vile, confected Kool-Aid masquerading as wine for the easily amused, bottle-blonde set. Or anything along those lines.

White Zinfandel is the drink every snob loves to hate, despite the fact it accounts for 10 per cent of wine sales by volume in the US, and is no doubt similarly popular in Canada.

It’s cheap, sweet, and simple. And though White Zinfandel has it’s place—specifically straight out of the ice, in the sunshine, and on the dock—it’s still fun to take a swat at it. Or get others all wound up and let them have a go.

Which was what I did the other day, as a symbolic farewell to White Zin season. On my Good Better Best Wines Facebook page, I posted the following question:

Fill in the blank: Being caught with a glass of White Zinfandel is like being caught ___________________________________________________.

These were the top eight responses:

1. “in a bikini before going to the salon first.” (Therese Regalado Murray)

2. “ riding a moped while wearing plaid pants and singing to Rick Astley :) .” (Adam Fidler)

3. “at a Barry Manilow concert belting out ‘Mandy’ whilst high fiving people you’ve never met before.” (Lee Hall again)

4. “rifling through your best mate’s mum’s knicker drawer.” (Lee Hall)

5. “at Whole Foods Market with a Twinkie!” (Carolyn Dougharty)

6. “ being caught by your mom making out with your cousin… let’s say 2nd cousin… so there’s nothing actually wrong with it.” (Claudio Arato)

7. “with your hand in the actual cookie jar when you were a kid. You want something sweet but it might just get you smacked upside the head! LOL.” (J. C. Milam)

8. “with your pants down around your ankles in a crowded room. Lol.” (Victoria Bailey)

Having tasted all the most popular White Zinfandels side by side for my latest book, Good Better Best Wines, I assure you that many are hideously bad.
But some are entirely drinkable on occasion, with the right company, and under the appropriate circumstances. Here are the good, better, and best White Zinfandels to ice down and gulp–for all the White Zin closet cases reading this piece. I won’t bother posting the prices because they’re all dirt cheap.

Good
Sutter Home Family Vineyards White Zinfandel, California, USA
This is the best-selling White Zin in America. Gleaming silvery pink in the glass, the peach, orange, cantaloupe, and subtle strawberry flavors are delicate and off-dry with a good edge of incising acidity. Light-bodied with 9.5% alc.

Better
Barefoot White Zinfandel, California, USA
Shatteringly fresh like a summer rainfall, this pinky-orange wine with a slight spritz and sweet watermelon aromas washes over the tongue with off-dry flavors of rosewater, sweet pineapple, fresh orange, ripe pear, and cantaloupe. Quite refined for a White Zinfandel. Off-dry and light-bodied with 9.5% alc.

Best
Beringer California Collection White Zinfandel, California, USA
This coral-rose colored wine with aromas of strawberry and peach attacks the palate with a soft shock of ripe berries and stone fruit. It is bright, concentrated, and off-dry with a tart seam of acidity, making it an excellent thirst quencher. Light-bodied and juicy with 10% alc.

Carolyn’s latest book, Good Better Best Wines, is the first book to rank best-selling wines by price and grape variety, with tasting notes and bottle images (April, 2010, $12.95, Alpha Books). Within weeks of release, it soared to #1 wine book at Amazon.ca and the #2 one at Amazon.com, and received rave reviews in such eminent dailies as Los Angeles Times and The Chicago Tribune. Available at bookstores everywhere. Watch the trailer at www.goodbetterbestwines.com

Carolyn’s critical articles and reviews have appeared in Decanter and Wine & Spirit International in the United Kingdom, as well as Maclean’s, Taste, and Tidings in Canada . Her first book, 1000 Best Wine Secrets, earned critical acclaim and international distribution with the distinction of being a best-seller by Canadian standards. Qualified sommelier and seasoned journalist, Carolyn holds the Diploma from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust and a BA from York University. Carolyn has lived in many cities in North America and Europe, and now resides in Toronto, where she was born.

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