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Wednesday, 25 July 2012 14:49

Zinfandel: A Reference Guide to Zinfandel

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Zinfandel: A Reference Guide to Zinfandelby Cathleen Francisco

The Wine Appreciation Guild

315 pages, $


As a kid I often looked for a series of books in the local public library called "All About" books. They were good for the beginner introducing himself to a subject but were written with a scrupulous attention to the technicalities that gave texture and structure to the subject as well. This book works similarly. If not "All About" Zinfandel, then it is a very good step toward All About.

What does this book say about Zinfandel? Organized alphabetically by winery the author tells us the name of the winery, its history, ownership, winemaker and winemaking philosophy. She sets out vintage notes for the 1998 vintage as applicable to the winery and its wines.

The book lists for each wine discussed: appellation, composition, vinification and, if applicable, the vineyard. She sets out next, the alcohol percentage, residual sugar, brix at harvest, harvest date, bottling date and production data. The winemaker’s notes let the maker tell us what he wants us to know about the particular wine, well probably just some of it. Some winemakers are generous enough with their knowledge of their wines to include suggestions for food pairings.

As a courtesy to the winery and help to the reader, the author provides winery location, information about visiting it, website and telephone number and a list of the winery’s other wines.

Ms. Francisco writes a glossary. If you have heard a certain term and wondered what it might mean, whether the term is an artful one such as "bouquet" or technical and scientific like "carbonic maceration", the glossary is helpful. By doing this she provides help to getting at both the magic and science of winemaking.

As a further aid she discusses blending varieties in a separate section called A Guide. She names various blending grapes and describes them in terms of what winemakers think they may contribute to a zinfandel. She includes the places of origin or common use of these varieties so the reader can do more research about their attributes. Ms. Francisco gives us a good introduction to tasting wines featuring those grapes.

She also provides a guide to American Viticultural Areas or AVAs. She tells us the origin of the terms in Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms regulations and its legal definition. The author tells us a bit about each California AVA and what it means for the grapes grown there and the wines made from them. In addition, she describes the requirements for the use of certain terms such as "county", "vineyard" and "estate" on labels.

The author succeeds in giving a reference guide to zinfandel and much more useful information about wine.


--reviewed by Mike Petersen

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