Red wine lovers have it tough in the summer months when it seems like all but the die-hard are forced by the mounting heat and humidity to eschew their favorites in favor of crisp white wines or icy beer. But there is one red wine that’s perfect for the summer: Zinfandel.

The flavor notes commonly associated with Zin — pepper, spice and jammy concentrated berry — are delicious with grilled foods and the zesty sauces that often accompany them. And while there are plenty of Zins on the market that are big, tannic powerhouses (especially among the Old Vine variety), there are just as many that are fruit-forward and easy-drinking.

And Zinfandel is an all-American wine — the most widely planted grape in California and produced nearly exclusively in the U.S. — making it a patriotic addition to your Fourth of July celebrations.

For most of its history, the origin of the Zinfandel grape was unknown and many believed it was the only known grape varietal native to the U.S. Once DNA profiling became available, scientists discovered that the Italian grape Primitivo was genetically identical to Zinfandel and thus concluded that Zinfandel originated in Italy. But recent research has proved that both Zinfandel and Primitivo are clones of the Croatian variety, Crljenak. The vines for the grape we now call Zinfandel were first brought to the United States by a New York horticulturist in the mid-1850s, and it’s been thriving here every since.

If you’d like to taste some good examples of the wide range of Zinfandels available today, mark your calendar for the DWO’s June 21 Wine Down Wednesday “15 Deadly Zins” at Currents, the new British-style pub on the Detroit Riverfront.

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