The Zinfandel Survey est Arrive

The folks at Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (ZAP) have released to the media the fascinating results of a survey of Zinfandel producers. In it we see on display the hopes, concerns and views of one of the more interesting slices of the winemaker universe.

There is a great deal of information in this survey report. So much so that I don’t want to go into all of it. But I do want to hit some highlights…or at least highlight some findings.

Over 25% of respondents to the survey reported making a wine with Zin that held less than 75% Zinfandel. This means they can not call that wine "Zinfandel" on the label. How much you want to bet these folks are downright fanatical about winemaking? There just isn’t much of a market for a non-Bordeaux style blend. Sure, you’ve got Ridge Geyserville and Bucklin’s Mixed Blacks. But you really have to want to make something different and have confidence in your sales abilities to carry this one off. I say bring it on.

The survey confirmed what we’ve known for decades: Zinfandel and Petite Sirah are partners in crime.Zap
60% of respondents said they prefer to blend Petite Sirah into thier Zin. And if the survey were of Petite Sirah producers I guarantee you’d find that they prefer to blend in a little Zin with their Petite. Syrah was the second most preferred blending grape to go with Zin, followed by Cabernet.

What does "old vine" mean. What should it mean? It appears this question was not asked in the survey, but I wish it had been. Rather, they asked why they label a wine "old vine"? Fully 25% responded they do this because the wine features a distinctive "old vine flavor". This is a maddeningly confusing response. IS there an "old vine flavor"? Is that flavor actually just intensity? Is that flavor a result of older zin vineyards tending to be field blends that include other varieties that get into the wine? The question I would have loved to have seen is this: Were the term "Old Vine" to be regulated what age do you think a vineyard should have to be to be called "Old Vine"?

When asked to name the three most important issues facing Zinfandel producers, 57% of the producers responding to the survey said: Perception of Zin as high alcohol, ultra-ripe wines. An analysis that came with the survey results suggests that this concern may only be something producers think about because they here the trade talking a lot these days about high alc wines and questioning their value. This is  probably a spot-on interpretation of the data and the producers’ mindset.

However, while I do believe that the backlash against high alc wines will continue to grow among the wine trade and eventually make it into the minds of wine lovers, I’m not convinced this is something that Zinfandel producers need to be as concerned about as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Cabernet producers should be. Zinfandel is a varietal that handles higher alcohols better for a number of reasons, not the least of which is its tendency to retain acidity. Also, wine lovers and members of the trade tend to accept higher alcohols in Zinfandel while being less forgiving when it comes to Pinot, Chard and Cabernet.

The survey was of 222 Zinfandel producers in California, easily a majority of the producers.

The survey was conducted by Christian Miller of Miller is as good as they come in the business of looking over the wine industry trends and opinions. This survey sure bears out this opinion of him. It’s very good stuff, and very thought provoking. I’ll be publishing a link in a future post that you can use to look over some of the results yourself. Congrats to Zap on some great info!

3 Responses

  1. East Village Wine Geek - November 19, 2006

    Wow. Excellent post man. Thank you for the info. You are my go to blog for the seriously good industry stuff. Thanks for fighting the good fight and keeping it thorough. Can’t wait to check out this survey on zin. Good point about the alcohol content in pinot and others compared to zin, which is the reigning champion for handling the 14.5-16%. Took your survey too. Look forward to the results. Cheers!

  2. Gourmets of Wine - November 21, 2006

    The Zinfandel Survey est Arrive

    [Source: Fermentation: The Daily Wine Blog] quoted: The folks at Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (ZAP) have released to the media the fascinating results of a survey of Zinfandel producers. In it we see on display the hopes, concerns and views of one…

  3. Bill Mossman - May 12, 2008

    I tasted one of the best zins I have ever had on a recent trip to Healdsburg. 2006 Dark Horse Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, Treborce Vineyards. small production Zin that was absolutely incredible. It’s hard to find in stores, but you can buy it at

Leave a Reply