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Thursday, June 30, 2022

The World’s Most Wanted Zinfandels

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Our search for the world’s most popular wines finds an alarming fall from grace for an American icon.


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| It may have slightly fallen out of favor in recent times but Zinfandel still offers undeniable value for money.

It’s a terrible and sad thing to say, but things aren’t looking too good for Zinfandel.


The once hugely popular grape variety was the backbone of California‘s wine industry through deep, big red wines (and also less-prestigious blush wines under the White Zinfandel monicker), but it has fallen on hard times. Buddy could you spare a wine?

The search figures for Zinfandel don’t make happy reading. The past year has seen an 8 percent drop in Zinfandel searches globally, with a 9 percent drop in the US, which is by far its strongest market. That follows a trend of falling search numbers for Zin from all California subregions, including its spiritual home, the San Joaquin Valley. If it can’t attract people almost genetically programmed to like it, the future looks pretty bleak.

It seems growers agree. Plantings of Zinfandel in California have been steadily falling, from a record crush of 469,216 tons in 2013 to just 300,420 tons in 2020, a 36 percent drop in production.


As far as sales go, things are pretty bleak there, too. Straight Zinfandel (as opposed to red blends containing Zinfandel) doesn’t even make the top 10 most popular varieties in the US market, according to Nielsen, eclipsed by wines like Malbec, Moscato and even Sauvignon Blanc. Red Zinfandel makes up less than 2 percent of the US market, according to Silicon Valley Bank’s 2021 State of the Industry report. Zinfandel makes up around 10 percent of the California grape crush, but most of it is destined for bulk blends or el cheapo White Zin; it’s not a promising outlook.


So what does the future hold for this once-proud variety? Well, that’s hard to say. Even looking at its genetic doppelganger, Primitivo, there’s not much hope to be gained from considering a re-brand from Zin to Primitivo. The Puglian stalwart is also going backwards when it comes to search numbers and remains stagnant when it comes to price and availability. At least Zin is improving when it comes to availability.

There is also one ray of hope for Zin producers. While searches might be decreasing, one important figure is increasing, and that’s the average price of click-throughs. Click-throughs are when someone clicks on a link on our find page, taking them to a merchant page. It denotes an intention to purchase and the average price of wines people have been clicking through to has increased. So, while people aren’t searching for Zin so much, they are willing to spend more money on it – average click-through price was up 7 percent worldwide compared to last year.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean most people are looking for expensive Zin, as our list demonstrates.

The World’s Most Wanted Zinfandels on Wine-Searcher:

Three years ago, when we last ran this list, we were a little looser around what we considered Zinfandel. So, this year, Ridge Geyserville (which would have been in the top spot) doesn’t make it, thanks to being only 70 percent Zinfandel (and maybe that’s the future for Zin producers – red blends).

Still, there are four wines that are still in the top 10 – the two Turleys, the Prisoner and Seghesio – which means there is some fluidity in what people are looking for.

Look at the prices, though. While Zinfandel offers great value, only the Rafanelli wine has a global average price of more than $50, so people aren’t necessarily trading up in their searches. That said, Zinfandel doesn’t attract huge price tags anyway; the most expensive one we have listed is the Martinelli Jackass Hill wine from Russian River Valley, with a global average price of $219.

It all looks like a time of diminishing returns for America’s grape, unless someone can reverse a decade-long downturn in interest. Let’s keep holding out for a hero.

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