Zinful Pleasures

Published by Max Edge on 08/08/2019

Operations assistant Max Edge continues his adventures in £10+ wines. Don't miss his previous post: Breaking Bacchus.

Put a zin(g) in your step

Something occurred to me recently. By actively buying wine only in the £6-8 bracket, I had been neglecting the 4th biggest wine growing nation in the world – the USA.

You can bet your bottom dollar that is a lot of wine.

Perhaps this ignorance had been influenced by some of the typical stereotypes associated with American Wine:

  • Either it’s way too expensive,
  • Or it’s under £6, found in abundance and probably best left on the shelf.

So, in my next venture beyond the £10 threshold I shall heed the advice of the Pet Shop Boys and “Go West” to find an answer to the question: does delicious, great value American wine exist?

The answers are fairly easy to find at Roberson. Having retained the title of International Wine Challenge Specialist Merchant of the Year for USA for the seventh consecutive year, our USA portfolio represents some of the most outstanding, respected producers, with quality wines across the entire price range.

The difficulty comes in choosing which one to try.

Roberson has a wonderful selection of wines in the £10-20 range. Cabernet Sauvignons & Zinfandels from Viano Vineyards and Marrietta Cellars, and Pinot Noirs by Backhouse and Moobuzz all represent astonishing value for money.

My decision didn’t take too long. After all, there was an occasion in the diary and food to be matched with. A helping hand came in the form of a text message from Dad earlier in the week. “Saturday; Barbecue; Leg of Lamb; Bring Wine”.

pairing zinfandel with food barbecued moroccan lamb

The Gastronomic cogs of my brain got to work. I’ve always had an affinity with the dark-skinned, high ripening varietals found all over Italy, and if I wasn’t venturing to the “land of the free” my go-to choice would be a Negroamaro or Primitivo of Puglia, where the warm Mediterranean climate creates super-ripe, medium-bodied wines with jammy dark berry fruits; perfect for the Summer season.

A barbecue calls for something a little more full-bodied to spar with though. American red wine; full-bodied; high acidity; jammy dark red fruits; subtle peppery notes. There’s a clear winner. ZINFANDEL!

I’m not ashamed to admit I only recently learnt that Zinfandel and Primitivo are more-or-less the same grape. I might be getting a few ‘side-eyes’ from my colleagues for this admission but expanding my knowledge of wine is the one of the reasons I traded in my bar blade and waiter’s friend. And until now, I didn’t drink American wine, so perhaps they’ll forgive me.

I took the plunge and went for Sobon Estate Zinfandel, The Rocky Top (£19 a bottle).

Oomph! The wine has a great complex nose of summer red berries (cherries, redcurrants & cranberries), notes of white pepper and cassia bark and has fantastic structure and depth. It’s one of those wines that lets you know you’re in for a good time.

Thanks to the high elevation of the vineyard, the wine is fresh with great acidity, full bodied and rich along with some gentle spice. A perfect partner for the food being served up.

Barbecued Moroccan Lamb Leg with Chickpea Tagine

The lamb leg is boned and butterflied to allow for a quick cook time and marinated in a spice rub made of ras el hanout, hot paprika, cumin, pepper, parsley, coriander. These spices help create a mild aromatic flavour and form a tasty blackened crust when left over hot coals, while the meat is tender and pink inside. Served alongside chickpea tagine, packed with flavours of the Mediterranean and North Africa and a simple wild rocket salad.

Pairing Zinfandel with food chickpea tagine

The jammy fruit notes in the wine perfectly complement the spiced crust and juicy pink lamb. Zinging acidity cuts through the naturally fatty meat and the velvety finish makes for easy drinking in the summer sun. At 14.5% however, I’d advise against committing to evening activities.

Fortunately, I’d learnt my lesson from last time and came prepared with a second bottle. Evening sorted.

Max edge v2

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We're Decanter and IWC Specialist Merchant of the Year for our USA range.

... London's best collection of seriously smart wine available by the single bottle

Jancis Robison MW