Zinfandel vs White Zinfandel – A Guide to the Popular Rosé

When you’re searching for a quality rosé, you likely encounter vintages made with Pinot Noir. The White Zinfandel is a step off the beaten path, a relatively recent addition to the wine world, and beloved for its zesty approach.

What is the difference between a White Zinfandel and a rosé? Put simply, White Zinfandel is the rosé version of Zinfandel, a red grape variety.

While both versions share some characteristics, the winemaking process dictates some pretty significant differences, too. Which variety should you consider for your wine rack?

We’ll break down the unique traits of White Zinfandel vs Zinfandel so you can enjoy some delicious bottles this year.

The Origin of Zinfandel

origin of zinfandel

This bold, black-skinned wine grape is quite popular in red wine circles. While not as well known as Pinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel has carved out a passionate niche for itself.

While modern Zinfandel grapes have been slightly tweaked from their original form, the parent grape is believed to be hundreds of years old.

The earliest known evidence of Zinfandel was throughout the Mediterranean, with a focus in Croatia and Italy. The version of the wine we know and love today gained traction in the mid-1800s, growing popular for its rapid aging process.

Italy and Croatia still grow Old World Zinfandel to this day. You can find New World Zinfandel in California and Australia.

The Origin of White Zinfandel

origin of white zinfandel

White Zinfandel is a pretty old grape, White Zinfandel is the complete opposite. This relatively fun and fresh rosé was crafted by Sutter Home Family Vineyards, a household wine name you’ve likely seen while browsing the grocery store aisle.

This winery crafted this rosé back in 1972, setting the stage for a great new addition to wine culture and grocery store box wine.

Other wineries such as Barefoot Cellars and Beringer Main & Vine offer their own variations on this tasty rosé.

Breaking Down Zinfandel

breaking down zinfandel

What type of wine is Zinfandel? You can already tell it apart from its inky dark coloration and dusty grape skin.

Let’s break things down by flavor notes, aroma, and mouthfeel.

Zinfandel is Full-Bodied and Lush

Do you crave wines that feel thick, rich, and lush? Zinfandel is your calling card. This red wine is legendarily robust and full-bodied, sitting heavily on the tongue.

Zinfandel is Surprisingly Delicate and Light

Believe it or not, Zinfandel boasts flavor notes that lean toward delicate, earthy, and light. Some Zinfandels even boast a candied aftertaste! Expect to enjoy dominant flavor notes such as:

  • Boysenberry
  • Pale cherries
  • Mixed berries
  • Cranberry
  • Blueberry

Depending on the age and storage of your Zinfandel, you might also enjoy flavor notes such as:

  • Licorice
  • Mild tobacco
  • Baking spices

Zinfandel is a Sweet Wine

While not as sugary as your average Riesling, Zinfandel definitely leans toward the sweet side. If you’re sensitive to bone-dry wines and want to avoid tart or bitter flavors, you’ll want to try this varietal.

For fans of dessert wine, consider purchasing a Zinfandel port. The winemaking process of port wines stops the fermentation process to leave the grape sugars intact, pushing the sweetness even further.

Zinfandel is a Solid Middleground Red Wine

Red wines are commonly known to be very bold in their flavor profiles. Either they’re on the milder end like a Merlot or a powerful punch like a Cabernet Sauvignon.

Zinfandel hovers between distinctive and gentle, not leaning too hard on either end of the spectrum.

Zinfandel is a Step Off The Beaten Path

With fewer regions than Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel is a fun way to step off the beaten path.

You’ll also find Zinfandel used in red blends.

Breaking Down White Zinfandel

breaking down white zinfandel

Zinfandel is already a wine on the lesser-known end of the spectrum. White Zinfandel has become a popular choice for box wine, but remains somewhat shunned in hoity-toity wine circles.

We’re not here to knock down a wine variety, but lift it up on its own merits.

White Zinfandel is Pretty Sweet, But Not Too Sweet

Do you cringe at Moscatos because of their astronomically high sugar counts? White Zinfandel’s sweet and fruity profile targets your sweet tooth without going overboard.

You’ll Get a Dainty Exaggeration of Classic Zinfandel Flavors

White Zinfandel has a honeyed, melon-like aroma, though you may catch a hint of floral notes fresh out of the bottle.

Expect to enjoy a range of flavor notes including:

  • Strawberry
  • Melon
  • Mixed berries
  • Raspberry
  • Citrus

White Zinfandel is a Summer Delight

Warmer weather pairs nicely with sweet, citrus drinks. White Zinfandel tastes phenomenal at room temperature and when chilled, so save a bottle for your next summer barbecue.

Speaking of which…

White Zinfandel Has Flexible Pairings

While not quite as balanced as a Pinot Noir rosé, White Zinfandel still manages not to lean super hard in the direction of dry, tart, or floral.

This semi-balanced approach makes this wine flexible for several recipes, which we’ll touch on below.

What Price Range Should I Try for Zinfandel?

Red wines have the largest variety in price. While white wines and rosés are generally lower-cost (with some exceptions!), you can find just about any range for Zinfandel.

If you want to try out Zinfandel for the first time, consider purchasing a bottle for between $8 to $15. If you’re eager to dip your toes in the more aged varieties, expect to spend between $35 to $100.

Some bottles of Zinfandel go as high as $800.

What Price Range Should I Try for White Zinfandel?

Rosé is well-known for being one of the most affordable wines on the market. A major reason rosé costs less is due to the reduced amount of labor involved.

The shorter and more straightforward winemaking process allows wineries to cut back on the price. Rosé also doesn’t benefit as much from aging as its robust red counterparts, so there’s less demand for mature bottles.

What are Good Food Pairings for Zinfandel?

Due to the juicy sweetness of Zinfandel, you’ll want foods that provide a hearty contrast. Stay away from spicy or sugary foods so you’re getting the full range from your glass.

Zinfandel generally pairs best with the following:

Braises and Stews

Is it any wonder why this wine is so commonly served during the winter months? Zinfandel goes wonderfully with braised beef and chicken. You can also try a lamb stew to really get your taste buds dancing.

Meat or Vegetarian Barbecue

Smokey and salty flavors are ideal for Zinfandel. Whether you eat meat or are a vegetarian, a classic barbecue will provide the ideal contrast.

Cheddar-based Dishes

Are you a fan of cheese? Try a cheddar-based dish to add some salty, tart flavors to your glass of plummy Zinfandel. Homemade mac and cheese, cheese-based ravioli, and lasagna are solid choices.

What are Good Food Pairings for White Zinfandel?

white zinfandel

White Zinfandel shares a few qualities with its full red cousin, so similar food pairings apply. That said, we also have a few differences you should be aware of!

Meat or Vegetarian Barbecue

This food pairing works great for both Zinfandel and White Zinfandel. Zinfandel’s jammy, cherry notes pair well with the smoky kick of barbecue, White Zinfandel offers its own acidic contrast.

Fresh Green Salads

Leafy salads are a little too mild for the richer flavor of Zinfandel but are fantastic with the zingy tartness of White Zinfandel.

Fish-Based Dishes

Are you thinking of grilling cod or salmon this summer? White Zinfandel’s berry and citrus notes mingle wonderfully with the subtle saltiness of fish.

Full Breakdown of Zinfandel vs White Zinfandel

Wine Breakdown Zinfandel White Zinfandel
Origin Mediterranean American
ABV 14% to 17% 12% to 16%
Flavor Notes Cranberry, cherry, blueberry Strawberry, melon, citrus
Aroma Tobacco, baking spices, licorice Citrus, lemon, honeydew
Mouthfeel Lush, full-bodied Smooth, light
Pairings Braises, stews, barbecue Barbecue, salads, fish

Zinfandel vs White Zinfandel – Conclusion

Zinfandel vs White Zinfandel is a lesson in subtlety. For every similarity these two share, there’s a profound difference.

Zinfandel is a lush, full-bodied red wine that leans toward sweet, jammy, and earthy. If you’re already a fan of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, this is one variety you’ll likely adore.

White Zinfandel is the rosé version of Zinfandel and was created relatively recently in the 1970s. While sharing similar berry tones to the original grape, this wine leans toward the light, smooth, and citrusy.

Eager to dive further into the world of wine? We’ve broken down Merlot, Pinot Grigio, and much more!