A fruity and medium-bodied Zinfandel pairs best with rich and robust foods like grilled Hamburgers, BBQ Ribs, Chinese Takeout, Liver and Onions, Baked Beans, Roasted Lamb and Pulled Pork.  Zinfandel is a rich red wine with flavours of raspberry, blackberry, plum, smoke, spice, and black pepper.  If barrel-aged, expect notes of chocolate, vanilla and leather.  Also, expect to pay more for barrel-aged Zinfandel as oak-ageing costs money.

High in acidity and with medium tannin, Zinfandel can easily take on pizza and pasta containing tomato sauce.  The fruity sweetness of Zinfandel makes it a wonderful pair with slightly sweeter dishes such as Peking duck, duck a l’orange, or chicken teriyaki.

The pairings below refer to lower-alcohol and minimally oaked Zinfandel commonly produced in California.  This style of Zinfandel runs around the $25 range and is best enjoyed young to appreciate the fruity freshness.  Edmeades, Ravenswood, Rosenblum, Bogel, Cline and Frog’s Leap are among the many great California winemakers who make exceptional Zinfandels in this affordable style.

More expensive Zinfandel are oaked, higher in tannin, and boast alcohol of up to 17%.  These syrupy Zinfandels are often nicknamed ‘Fruit-Bombs’ due to their explosive fruit flavours.  With high alcohol and oak-ageing, this style of Zinfandel often comes with a high price and are difficult to pair with foods due to the high level of alcohol and overwhelming flavours.  In this instance, I’d stick with hearty and heavy dishes venison stew, pasta tossed with grilled sausage and beef and rib-eye steak.

Best Food With Zinfandel

BBQ Ribs & Zinfandel Pairing

Zinfandel’s sweetness from its fruity flavours makes the red wine exceptional with Barbecue Ribs.  The fruity flavours of blackberry, cherry and raspberry brings out the sweet and savoury spice tones in the barbecue sauce.  Meanwhile, the smoke, spice, and black pepper complement the BBQ sauce’s spiciness.  The pairing works both ways as both the sauce and the ribs make each other taste even more delicious.

High in acidity, Zinfandel cuts through the fatty flavours of your BBQ ribs, keeping your palate refreshed in between bites.  This allows every magnificent bite of ribs to taste just as delicious as the very first bite.  The high acidity also ensures the savoury flavours of the ribs shine through, as acidity is a flavour enhancer.  Finally, while flavourful and rich, a medium-bodied Zinfandel has enough restraint to not wash away all those hard-earned and slow-cooked meaty rib flavours.

Grilled Hamburgers & Zinfandel Pairing

The best wine pairing with hamburgers is Zinfandel as this perfect pairing makes both the wine and the burger make each other taste better.  The smoky and black pepper flavours of Zinfandel mingle perfectly with the savoury flavours of your grilled hamburger, enhancing the flavours of the burger and the fruitiness of the wine.

Meanwhile, refreshing flavours of plum, black cherry, raspberry and blackberry come across as refreshing against the meatiness of the hamburger.  This refreshing nature is important, as in North America we often served our hamburgers well-done.  This, unfortunately, cooks out all the fat and flavour and can often leave the hamburger tasting dry.  Fortunately, one sip of Zinfandel solves this problem, and the high acidity of the wine draws out all the delicious meaty flavours that remain.

Finally, the high-acidity of Zinfandel ensures it will pair well with even the most difficult hamburger toppings.  Banana peppers, ketchup, fried onions, blue cheese, bacon and roasted red peppers will all be supported by the fruity but smoky kiss of Zinfandel.  For similar reasons, you’ll find Zinfandel just as delicious with Lamb Burgers.

Chinese Food Takeout & Zinfandel Pairing

While Zinfandel is dry, the fruitiness of the wine makes it taste slightly sweet, making it perfect with foods that are slightly sweet such as Chinese Food Takeout.  Often we smother our chicken balls and egg-rolls in plum sauce or sweet and sour sauce, and the sweetness of Zinfandel complements the nature of this sweetness.

Soy Sauce is another element of Chinese Food that gives the dishes a rich earthiness, and the smoke, black pepper and spice element of Zinfandel complement the soy sauce.

Finally, Chinese Takeout is incredibly salty, thus the high acidity of Zinfandel, along with its fruity flavours of blackberry, jam, raspberry and cherry, offer an incredible amount of refreshment.  The high acidity also scrubs the carbohydrates and fats found in chicken balls, pork fried rice, spareribs, battered shrimp, and noodle dishes off our cheeks, ensuring each Chinese food bite tastes as fresh as the first.

Pulled Pork Tacos & Zinfandel Pairing

Pulled Pork is shredded meat pulled off a barbecued pork shoulder, which is then mixed with barbecue sauce.  The fruity sweetness of Zinfandel, along with its hints of smoke and spice, complement the barbecue sauce of the pulled pork.  The medium-bodied nature of Zinfandel ensures that it shouldn’t overwhelm the smoky-sweet but subtle flavours of the pulled pork.

High in acidity, Zinfandel will go great with any toppings you shove into your pulled pork taco, including re-fried beans, salsa, grilled vegetables and any additional sauces.  Acidity acts as a flavour enhancer, so you’ll be guaranteed to taste the pork, plus all the other fillings with each bite.

Liver and Onions & Zinfandel Pairing

Liver and Onions is a sweeter dish and Zinfandel’s jammy flavours of blackberry, blueberry and plum complement the sweetness of the dish. Meanwhile, the fruitiness also helps mask the mineral and iron flavours of the liver that not everyone finds pleasant.  Select a medium-bodied Zinfandel if you want to taste some of the Liver’s minerality.  Or if you want to ignore the iron flavours completely, now’s the time to bust open a bottle of full-bodied Zinfandel.

The earthy flavours of the liver and onions also enhance the Zinfandel as it draws out all the subtle flavours of cinnamon, herbs, licorice, smoke and black pepper that are found in this delicious red wine.