A Wine Lover's Weekly Guide To $10 Wines - A Beringer White Zinfandel

This article reviews a rose wine carrying a white name but coming from a red grape. Zinfandel is perhaps America's only indigenous European-style grape variety. It makes fruity, powerful red wines. But it also is the source of White Zinfandel, an very popular rose wine that accounts for about 10% of the wine volume sold in the United States. On its own, White Zinfandel is the third most popular American "varietal" wine. The Zinfandel grape is vinified into this curiously named rose six times as often as into the traditional red.

One of the worst wines that I ever consumed was a popular White Zinfandel. On the advice of our legal department I  on't be naming names, but I vowed never to drink another White Zinfandel. But several years later an in-law brought a different producer's version to a dinner at our house and I felt compelled to taste it and not talk about the past. That also to be unnamed version wasn't too bad. So I thought I would try another. First a few words of wine  rivia. White Zinfandel became so very popular that it prevented ripping out some of the oldest vines in the US. The producer of this bottle, Beringer is the oldest operating vineyard in Napa Valley. One more comment before our review, don't tell wine connoisseurs that you're serving them a Napa Valley Zinfandel if this be your wine. They will get the wrong idea, and perhaps not be amused. We will look for a red Zinfandel to review. But don't be surprised if it doesn't come from Napa Valley.

OUR WINE REVIEW POLICY All wines that we taste and review are purchased at the full retail price.

Wine Reviewed Beringer White Zinfandel 2007 10.5% alcohol about $8

Let's start by quoting the marketing materials. Tasting Note: Pale rose color; strawberry and rhubarb aroma; touch of fruit sweetness in flavor; delicate, soft finish. Serving suggestion: Soft cheeses; Thai or Indian food, as a party sipper, or use in a Sangria. And now for my reactions.

At the first sips the wine was quite sweet with nice acidity. Its first pairing was with small, assorted pieces of barbecued chicken. This wine was refreshing with bright acidity. I had the feeling this is a fun wine, the kind you drink at a party where wine is about the last thing on anyone's mind. I wish it were less sweet. It maintained a candy taste with roasted eggplant smothered in garlic. When this white Zin faced a white bean and red pepper dip it lost some of its sweetness, which upped it a notch in my estimation.

The next meal consisted of Kube (also called Kibbe); ground beef slow cooked in crushed wheat jackets accompanied by Swiss Chard and Bok Choy. The wine's acidity almost counterbalanced its sugar. The more I drank the happier I was with the wine's acidity.

My final meal was centered around a red onion omelet accompanied by smoked salmon on the side. The Zin was quite fruity but still sweeter than I would like while its acidity remained. In the presence of the smoked salmon the wine was round but not quite as fruity. The combination was pleasant but undoubtedly most of the credit went to the smoked salmon.

I ended the bottle with two local cheeses. The wine was fruity and sweet when accompanying a yellow Cheddar. It is almost as if the cheese wasn't there. When paired with a more forceful white Havarti the wine was fairly round with diminished sweetness.

Final verdict. I would not buy this wine when I'm feeling serious about my libations. But if I just want to have fun and wash down selected nibbles, I wouldn't mind another round. Does this mean that I'll return to retaste my first White Zinfandel? Never.

Over the years Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten computer and Internet books, but really prefers drinking fine German wine, along with friends and the right foods. He teaches sundry computer classes at an Ontario French-language community college. Visit his global wine website http://www.theworldwidewine.com with a weekly column reviewing $10 wines and new sections writing about
(theory) and tasting (practice) organic and kosher wines.