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Food & drink: at the bar; The words powerful and intense certainly fit the bill for Zinfandel.

Byline: with Lawrence McCoy

F you like your wine to be big and robust, try those made from the often-overlooked Zinfandel grape. Powerful and intense certainly fit the bill for Zinfandel.

The result can be a little overwhelming for some, at least when the grape is made into red wine with its trademark rich and spicy, uncompromising dense blackberry and raspberry fruit. All too often recently it has been responsible for insipid 'blush' pale pink stuff that pours out of California by the tanker load. But it is as a red wine that the grape excels. It originated in southern Italy, where it is known as Primitivo, but it is now grown most famously in California.

A versatile grape, Zinfandel can be made into wines that range from those girlie pink ones, to thick, head-shrinkingly alcoholic reds.

For a taste of something in between, some of the best value Zinfandels come from the cult-status Ravenswood winery in Sonoma, California. Here creator Joel Peterson's motto 'no wimpy wines' gives a hint of his priorities.

And Ravenswood Vintner's Blend Zinfandel 2002 (widely available at pounds 6.99) is a hugely warming and spicy example, with racy, heady dark fruit, satisfyingly robust with hints of vanilla and chocolate.

There's similar swirling blackberry and spice aromas and mouth-filling flavour with Ravenswood County Series Lodi Zinfandel 2002 (pounds 7.99, Sainsbury's).

Trading up to Ravenswood County Series Amador Zinfandel 2001 (pounds 9.99 at Thresher and Somerfield) brings increased complexity, with gorgeously dense, fleshy black fruit interlaced with sturdy tannins, spice, a wisp of charcoal fires, dark chocolate and creamy vanilla.

Look out too for Bonterra Zinfandel 2001 (pounds 8.99 at Sainsbury) for an organic Californian wine crammed with scented berry fruit and robust invigorating flavour.

In Italy Primitivo follows a slightly different path, with excellent value smoky and tobacco-leaf scented wines coming from Puglia in the hot south
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jul 9, 2005
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