Zinfandel Wine Pairing

The ultimate food wine for meat, pasta, and everything in between!

  • The Croatian origin Zinfandel with entirely Californian character is a great food wine and goes beautifully with typical American dishes.
  • Brawny, smooth, and rich, it has the flavors of sweetness with hints of spiciness.
  • High in alcohol and high on flavor, it pairs extraordinarily well with meats, pizzas, pasta, cheese, and more. But it is particularly fond of meat!

General Wine Discerning Tips

To differentiate and appreciate wine, we use the following 3 senses: Sight, smell, and taste.

Pay attention to the sight or eye of your wine. This involves considering the color, hue, transparency, density, bubbles, and viscosity. All these aspects will help you discern the grape variety, winemaking process, the wine’s age, and its alcohol content.

To experience wine flavors, you have to smell the wine before you drink it. As soon as you pour the wine into the glass, sniff it to get the delicate and subtle fragrances. Now give the glass a nice swirl. This will boost the odors of the wine. You will discern heavier scents like floral, citrus, herbal, spicy, white fruits, berry fruits, etc. These are the terms used to describe a wine’s aroma/boutique.

When we taste the wine, we can discern saltiness, sweetness, sourness, and bitterness.

Zinfandel Flavor, Aroma and Taste Profile

Body: Zinfandel is a medium to full-bodied wine. 

Taste: It bursts with candied fruit flavors in your mouth, followed by spicy notes leading to a smoky finish. 

Appearance: Zinfandel is pink to deep purple in color

ABV is 14 to 16%. 

Fruit flavors: Berry, dried fruit, and citrus are the chief fruit flavors of Zinfandel. The fruit flavors come from Raspberry, Black Cherry, Blackberry, Blueberry, Black Currant, Black Plum, Raisin, Fig, Apricot, Cranberry Jam, and Jammy Fruit.

Oak flavors: Vanilla, Coconut, Nutmeg, Mocha, Burnt Sugar, Coffee, Cinnamon, Clove, and Tobacco.

Aromas: Zinfandel has floral, fruity, herb, and spicy aromas with earthy notes. Predominant on the nose are aromas of Licorice, Star Anise, Smoke, Black Pepper, and Black Cardamom.

Origin: Croatian by the origin and beloved by folks in the US, “Zin” pairs well with a slew of classic American dishes.

Tannins and Acidity: Medium to Medium-High.

There are several styles of Zinfandel that pair amazingly well with foods. The bold, rich, and dark-fruit flavors of Zinfandel make them ideal for pairing with beef ribs. Zinfandels that are moderately red-fruit flavored, spicy, and well-balanced in comparison are wonderful with pork, lamb, and poultry. The latter variety also really shines with pizza and pasta dishes.

Pairing Zinfandel with Food

Zinfandel is best paired with meat. Almost all meat like lamb, pork, venison, and beef work well. Pair this flavorful red wine with the leg of lamb, spare ribs, brisket, Italian sausages, and grilled pork chops. Easy to drink, with sweet flavor notes and subtle hints of spiciness, it is also great when paired with spicy Asian/Cajun food like spicy seafood and BBQ chicken.

A lighter Zinfandel is a wonderful accompaniment to poultry and game fowl. Turkey, pheasant, duck, quail, and chicken can all be paired happily with lighter zinfandel. For hamburgers, medium-bodied, spiced, and lightly-oaked Zins will serve you well to cut through but not overpower the burger dishes.

Beef and Zinfandel wine pairing

Zinfandel is a natural pairing with beef. You cannot go wrong pairing Zinfandel with Grilled Steak or Rib-eye Steak and other grilled dishes. If you have Beef Kebabs, Roast Beef, and Braised Short Ribs on the menu, you would thoroughly enjoy pairing them with Zinfandel. Zinfandel can stand up to beef dishes with its strong seasoning because of its spicy flavor profile.

Pork and Zinfandel Wine Pairing

For barbeque pork ribs, red wines with fruity flavors and sweet flavor notes are great choices. Which makes Zinfandel an obvious and delightful choice for BBQ pork ribs. The sweet or spicy sauces will work. Roast Pork Loin, pork shoulder, pork chops can all be paired with light to medium-styled Zinfandels.

Pork BBQs are typically seasoned with sweet, spicy, and smoky flavors and sauces. Medium to full-bodied with sweet-smoky-spicy flavors elevates the barbecue pork dishes and balances out the grilled pork’s smoke sweetness and spiciness. Pork with prunes and Zinfandel is a heavenly pair too!

Juicy, tender, fresh, and flavorful-roast boneless pork loin when paired with light to medium-styled Zinfandel-is a delight! North Carolina sauces use vinegar as one of the primary ingredients. Predominantly this goes, above pork. So, spicy and flavorful pulled pork with North Carolina Style BBQ sauce is perfect to pair with Zinfandel because of the similar flavor profile. Zinfandel has enough flavor, spice, acidity, and fresh, fruity flavors to cut through the rich flavors, spiciness, and fat of pulled pork.

Poultry and Zinfandel Wine Pairing

Zinfandel does work nicely with poultry, but you have to keep two things in mind when you want to go ahead with this pairing. For one, you need to ensure that the luscious fruitiness and bold flavors of the Zinfandel wine do not overwhelm the chicken. Secondly, you need to think the other way round too. That is to say, the flavors from the sauces that you glaze over the chicken should not overwhelm the wine.

Fried chicken, BBQ chicken, and Grilled chicken are all nicely complemented by Zinfandel.


Lamb racks cooked a particular way can be paired with medium to full-bodied Zinfandel. Juicy, tender, and rare lamb is perfect if you want to have it with Zins. Lamb Burgers, Lambs stews, and Lamb Shepherd’s pie pair beautifully with the medium-bodied Zins.

Leg of lamb and Zinfandel is also an exciting and splendid combination! 


Aged Cheddar, Provolone, Feta, Aged Gruyere, Gorgonzola, and Parmesan all shine with Zinfandel! As a rule of thumb, pair lighter Zinfandels with milder cheeses. Full-bodied Zinfandels go well with stronger cheeses.

Pizzas and Pasta

Italian sausages pairs pleasurably with all styles of Zinfandel. Tomato-based pasta dishes and Zinfandel’s spice complement each other rather well. Bigger Zins make a stunning pairing with Spaghetti and Meatballs. 

Final Zin Wrap

The Zammy, juicy fruitiness of Zin with a touch of spiciness is a wonderfully versatile food wine. It is the happiest when paired with food from the meat section of the aisle! The flavorful, juicy, and spicy Zinfandel works exceptionally well with smoked meats, spiced BBQs, and even curries like Beef Rendang. 

Zinfandel exhibits high fruitiness and alcohol. So, decant red zinfandel for about an hour if you want a more balanced flavor. Avoid serving Zinfandel reds with sweet or creamy sauces. Because food sweeter than wine is a recipe for disaster! 

Another great tip I have for you is to pick the spices you taste in your Zin and add them to your sauce or seasoning! Ginger, Garlic, Rosemary, Curry, Clove, Cinnamon, Vanilla, Black Pepper, Nutmeg, Cardamom Coriander are some spices and herbs that pick out the spices in the Zin and bring them out.

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