“Fun labels, serious wines,” is the tagline for Californian winery Chronic Cellars, who make this Taste the Difference Zinfandel for Sainsbury’s. And if this one’s anything to go by, I agree 100 percent.
I’ve known for a while that Zinfandel is related to the Croatian grape variety Crljenak Kaštelansk. But only recently did I realise how contrasting Zinfandels from different climates can be. This Sainsbury’s Paso Robles Zinfandel conforms to my traditional idea of what a Zinfandel should be: strong, dark and rich. And, to be frank, this is how I prefer them.
There’s a touch of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas to the label, which makes sense seeing as Paso Robles is situated a few hundred kilometres due west of Vegas, and roughly midway between San Fransisco and Los Angeles. This makes it one of the warmer Californian wine regions. And the strong sunlight there means it can producer, riper, stronger reds than you’d get in northern California, or in Croatia, for that matter.
And it’s the full bodied richness and layers of complexity that I really love about this wine. Smokey blueberry, jammy blackcurrant, strawberry, cherry, vanilla, chocolate, liquorice, leather, menthol and freshly opened Golden Virginia rolling tobacco are all words I wrote down while tasting it. I might have gone a bit far there, but I was just getting into the spirit of gonzo winetasting.
On the tongue, there’s a touch of tannin, but left to breathe it becomes much more smooth and velvety, for those who enjoy that sort of thing. It paired perfectly with a rich Bolognese, to which I added my killer ingredient of star anise, although Sainsbury’s recommendation of a flame-grilled burger sounds almost as good. I might try that next time.
This is one of my go-to reds right now, and I look forward to trying more from the Chronic Cellars range. Sure, it has a gonzo label, but there’s nothing gonzo about the winemaking here.
5 NINJA STARS
Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference Paso Robles Zinfandel, 2016. £11, 14.5% volume.
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