Zinfandel has two key features that make it economical to grow and therefore affordable to drink: high productivity and exceptional heat tolerance. All grapevines are capable of producing many dozens of clusters of fruit per vine, but those that make the best wines tend to struggle to bring more than 15 or 20 clusters to complete ripeness, resulting in wines that can taste sour or green when over-cropped. Most fine wine grapes must be thinned in order to avoid this issue, but zinfandel’s uncommon vigor lets vintners aim for higher yield per vine than they would for other grapes, without risking negative consequences. But an even bigger factor in zinfandel’s delivery of high quality for the dollar is its ability to withstand very high temperatures in the growing season. In warm sunny regions like California, the most expensive real estate lies along the coast, because that’s where the weather is the most pleasant for people — and for grapevines, too. The cooling influence of the Pacific provides a natural form of air conditioning that drops the temperature overnight in the San Francisco Bay Area, which is essential for cultivating fine French grapes like cabernet sauvignon or pinot noir. But zinfandel luxuriates in the warmer conditions found further inland, where farmland is far cheaper, so its bold flavors and rich velvety texture can be enjoyed at modest prices. This popular example tastes of black cherry wishniak, raspberry jam, and cinnamon toast.
Seven Deadly Zins Old Vine Zinfandel Lodi, California (15% ABV)
$14.99 through Sept. 29 (regularly $19.99); PLCB Item #9675
Also available at: Total Wine & More in Wilmington and Claymont, Del. ($11.47), Joe Canal’s in Marlton, N.J. ($12.09), Canal’s Bottlestop in Marlton, N.J. ($12.09), Kreston Wine & Spirits in Wilmington, Del. ($12.86), Wine Warehouse in Clementon, Voorhees, Mantua and Sicklerville, N.J. ($12.98).