Zymotechnology is the study of yeast fermentation. For those of you who are interested, yeast is a single-celled agent vital to the fermentation process which, starved of oxygen, transforms grape juice to wine. Sugars are used as an energy source by yeast, with alcohol and carbon dioxide as by-products of the reactions. And for those of you who really care to know, the word yeast is originally derived from an ancient word meaning to boil, to seethe, or to be troubled. In 16th century English it referred to the semi-solid material that could be collected from the bottom of a brewing tank. By mid-17th century, the meaning changed to the current meaning, that of a singled-celled plant, a thallophyte and one of the lowest members of the vegetable kingdom along with algae, lichens and fungi. Now aren’t you glad we asked?
Can you name the top three red wine varietals grown in California with the highest tonnage crushed in the 2003 harvest?
Two of the top three varietals are fairly easy to guess. Cabernet Sauvignon is Number 1 at 395,729 tons crushed in the 2003 harvest. Merlot is Number 3 with 260, 891 tons crushed. Somewhat surprising is Zinfandel as the Number 2 red wine in California coming in at 327,522 tons. The overall champion as it has been for many years, is still Chardonnay with 560,990 tons crushed.
True or False. White Zinfandel is a different wine grape variety than Zinfandel?
False. Both wines are made from the same Zinfandel grape. Regardless of the fact that White Zinfandel is not white and arguably not really Zinfandel, it was California’s great commercial wine success story of the 1980s. Although not the first to produce it, Sutter Home Winery bottled a White Zinfandel in 1972. Off to a relatively slow start, by 1980 sales of Sutter Home White Zin were a mere 25,000 cases. As if by magic, sales took off and reached 1.5 million cases by 1986! The wine had evolved (or digressed depending on your point of view) as a way of making California’s vast acreage of Zinfandel acceptable to the predominantly white wine-drinking American public.
Originally published in our Gold Wine Club's The Wine Press, Michael David Winery edition featured in 2004