Surprisingly given its affinity with warm to hot climates, there is little Zinfandel planted in Australia. Cape Mentelle in Margaret River and the organic practitioner, Lowe Family Vineyards in Mudgee, are among the few to have considerable success with this red wine grape variety. This is likely as much because of Californian claims that Zinfandel is its own, as it is due to the variety's odd tendency for uneven ripening within its bunches.
Indeed, Zinfandel is a stubborn grape variety that performs best when pruned hard and trained low to the ground as bush vines. This maximizes ripeness throughout the bunches, while controlling Zinfandel's prolificacy. Yet this also makes it difficult to machine harvest, impinging on costs and practical outlays in many Australian viticultural regions where labour is short and working with machines is de rigeur.
Among the best Californian examples, many concentrated around Dry River in Sonoma County, the sweet and sour tangerine tang of Zinfandel lifts molten fruit flavours of ripe plum and figs. The wines are generally toned with vanillin oak and increasingly, some whole cluster work for spice and textural complexity. Top examples include those from Ridge and Rafanelli, a small producer crafting low interventionist wines of distinction and place. Despite the sense of regional hegemony and pride, however, Zinfandel's wines age well for five to eight years, before plateauing. They are expressive wines of forward fruit and possibly, as at Turley, bombastic levels of alcohol and extract. They give imminent pleasure rather than savoury detail.
Ampelographers have shown that Zinfandel is identical to the southern Italian grape variety, Primitivo. Primitivo is grown throughout southern Italy, especially in Puglia around the town of Manduria. Its expression is often more rustic with less new oak, dusty tannins and a hint of volatility for lift and poise.