What is the difference between Zinfandel from the USA, Italy and Australia?

Published on 05/18/2021 by Priscilla Hennekam

Zinfandel is not a common grape variety in Australia, but I have found good examples in a few wine regions. I have a tried a few that I like in Margaret River and McLaren Vale, plus the winery where I am working, Hentley Farm, surprised me quite a lot with their Zinfandel.

I confess that I haven’t had a lot of contact with Zinfandel before – being from Brazil, then living in Argentina, my contact with Zinfandel was very limited. That’s probably why when I started working at Hentley Farm, this grape variety got my attention, plus now studying the WSET Diploma I have been trying a lot of different examples of Primitivo (the Italian name for this grape). I felt inspired to organize a Zinfandel tasting with my WSET friends and even to share this experience with my co-workers at Hentley Farm Wines.

The experience was fantastic. I selected 3 Zinfandels: one from the USA, one from Italy and one from Australia, then with my WSET team we did a blind tasting, and we all have agreed on these tasting notes:

Murphy Goode Sonoma County Liars Dice Zinfandel - 2014

This wine is already 7 years old, which explains the medium garnet colour in this wine. Compared to the other wines, this wine in particular we noticed the evidence of flavours coming from the oak, such as vanilla, coconut, charred oak and smoke plus also raisin, dried rose petals and coffee grounds coming from the time it has spent in the bottle. It is a high alcohol wine, at 15.5%, it has fine mineral tannins and a soft and round finish.

Cardone Primaio IGP Puglia Primitivo - 2019

This wine displays a bright ruby colour and being younger it was showing more pungent notes on the nose with very ripe cherries, plum, cola, fig, raisin and spice flavours. This wine is less alcoholic than the first one, has a good structure, ripe tannins and a vibrant finish. It’s a wine to drink now with your friends in the evening with a selection of cheeses from Italy - make sure you at least have one Canestrato Pugliese cheese in your selection, which is the typical cheese from the region and features prominent spicy flavours that complement the spicy flavours of the wine.

Hentley Farm Barossa Valley Zinfadel - 2018

Compared to the other two wines, we found this Zinfandel more elegant, with fresh berries and sweet spices, along with dried herbs and savoury notes. It has a medium body, well-balanced acidity with smooth tannins and a great fruit expression that lingers. We made a video with the winemaker talking about the challenges of growing Zinfandel in the Barossa Valley, Australia. Watch it here: Winederful Season 2 Episode1 Bonus - Hentley Farm - The Australian Zinfandel with all its elegance! -YouTube