Although Zinfandel is remarkably food friendly, the best pairings are when Zinfandel is matched with rich and robust foods like roasted grilled steak, beef burritos, venison, roasted lamb and Chinese Food. The range of Zinfandel’s body might fall somewhere between medium and full-bodied and thus should be matched accordingly.
Examples of Matching Zin to Food:
- Strong-flavoured and spiced foods such as Mexican dishes, Indian Cuisine (such as Butter Chicken) and North African preparations. Beware, however, as a powerful and full-bodied Zin will overwhelm delicate dishes.
- Zinfandel and Barbecued food of all styles! The sweeter the Barbecue Sauce, the lighter style of Zinfandel should be used.
- With Game and Roasted Red Meats. Densely flavoured Zinfandel is great with venison, roasted lamb and grilled steak. Accompany the dish with a fruit-based sauce or marinade for pure heaven.
- Zinfandel and Chinese Food Takeout is fabulous, as it mixes well with everything from Sweet and Sour Spareribs, to red-sauce drenched chicken balls and pork fried rice. I find this pairing works well as Zin has a smoky nature that complements the smokiness of soy sauce used in many dishes.
Digging Deeper into the Styles of Zinfandel
This is often blush coloured, with an off-dry sweetness
Treat White Zinfandel like you would an off-dry white Riesling. (White Zinfandel tends to have less acidity and more alcohol, so adjust seasonings accordingly to accommodate)
Chilled White Zinfandel go extremely well with:
- Hamburgers smothered with ketchup
- Aromatic Curries
- Spicy Asian food (but not fiery hot)
- Sweet Barbecue Sauces (Texas Style – containing lots of sugar)
Grapey, Jammy and Juicy Red Zinfandel
These have softer tannin, and moderate alcohol. When slightly chilled, (to bring out the fruit flavours) they pair up nicely with:
- Baked Beans
- Baked Ziti
- Sweet Barbecue Sauces
- BBQ Chicken Pizza
- Beef Jambalaya
- Cheddar, Teleme and aged Gouda
- Chinese Takeout
- Cold Cut Sandwiches
- Meat Lovers Pizza
- Pulled Pork
- Spicy Foods (but not fiery hot food)
Medium to Full Bodied Zinfandel and Food Pairing
These are “Monster Trucks” or “American Gladiators” in a bottle! Huge wines that are generous in alcohol and bursting with ripe fruit and peppery flavours. If you think of foods associated with the 4th of July, it should pair. For example:
- BBQ Ribs
- Hearty Pizzas
- Grilled Sausages
- Heavy Stews
- Pasta Bolognese
- Robust red meats like Ribeye Steak, and Venison
- These Chewy Zinfandel are not friendly with most fish or shellfish
Port like Zinfandel
In some cases the fruit in the Zinfandel is almost too ripe and prune-flavoured and comes across like a syrupy port. While this isn’t the most popular style of Zin, you may come across one on the shelves. A good example of this wine is Terra d’Oro Zinfandel Port.
A port like Zinfandel will pair up great with:
- Creamy, blue veined and mature cheeses
- Bitter desserts that like less sugary, gooey chocolate desserts that stress nuts and coconut.