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White Zinfandel is King and Goes Great with Steak!!!!

Now that I have your attention, I wanted to tell you a bit about one of my favorite hours spent at UC Davis in my Viticulture and Enology study days . . .

Tim Hanni is a real heretic in the wine industry – pure and simple. He championed the concept of ‘progressive wine lists’ before most people could comprehend what they were . . . He championed ‘umami’ as an integral 5th taste to go along with sweet, sour, bitter, and salty, understanding how it affected wine and food pairing ‘harmony’ . . .He is an avowed ‘anti-wine snob’ . . . AND Mr. Hanni was one of the first two Americans to ever achieve the level of Master of Wine.

I invited Mr. Hanni to come speak to our class about food and wine pairing and he gladly accepted. During his captivating talk, one brief topic popped up and has stayed with me until this day . . .

‘All of you soon-to-be ‘high end’ winemakers – do me a favor . . . When you graduate from this illustrious institution and you’re working for your ‘exclusive’ winery, go out to a very nice steakhouse, call the sommelier over, and ask for their best bottle of White Zinfandel’ . . .

‘Why are so many of you laughing? Because I said ‘White Zinfandel’? Because I suggested asking for this at a steakhouse?!?!?!?!

You may laugh, but I need all of you in this room to understand that one of the three top selling varieties (and true even now) is White Zinfandel. Beringer and the like are ‘laughing’ all the way to the bank , , ,

And White Zinfandel with steak? Are you crazy? Why NOT?!?!? Who made up the rule that you had to have red wine with steak and NOT white wine (or blush)? Is this truly a ‘rule’?

Talk about ‘eye opening’ . . . I loved it! Here was a guy working in Napa and consulting with some spectacular restaurants around the world giving us some great advice . . . .and you would not believe how many of my classmates came up to me after his talk and laughed and shook their head at his ‘white zinfandel’ comment. To a one, they said that they would never be so crazy as to order that type of wine in a steakhouse . . . .

HELLOOO! I think someone (or, in this case, MANY folks) missed the point here . . .who are WE to tell someone what they should and should not LIKE!?!?!? You are not WRONG for liking this type of wine, and if a white zin is what you want with a steak, more power to you!

Just a little food for thought today . . .

Your thoughts are welcome (-:


6 responses to “White Zinfandel is King and Goes Great with Steak!!!!”

  1. Mac McCarthy says:

    Real point here: You “know” white zin is crap. But have you tried it? With or without steak? Then how do you know what it tastes like, or is good/bad with? Hanni’s point is: Try it, at least to confirm your class prejudices.

    White Zin is not a sophisticated-tasting wine; I’ve drunk it and I know. But it’s easy to drink, which is why it sells so well. I’m guessing it lacks the acid to clear your palate in a steak dinner — but until I’ve tried it, I’m just extrapolating.

    Have opinions; but test, too!

  2. Paul says:

    I grew up in Manteca, CA in the heart of San Joaquin valley where a lot of the grapes for white zin are grown. As a kid I saw the wine being made in the large scale wineries that are pervasive throughout that area of the San Joaquin valley and thought that’s what wine was because there was so much of it and people drank it like it was going out of style! Today, I guess I’m “educated” and readily admit that I would be the first to step up and take a whack at bashing white zin as a ‘wine’. However, after reading your post I realized something, I’ve lost the innocence of my roots that would have allowed to try a white zin with steak. I guess it’s time to truly open my and experience life from the perspective of a kid who only knew white zin was wine!

  3. Larry says:

    Thanks for all the comments! I think Larry is spot on with his comments – very much appreciated! So Bill, I need to agree with you as well!

    And Cheese makes a very valid and well-thought statement as well – shows his pedigree as a Fresno State Grad (no joke) .

    Thanks again all!


  4. OK, white zinfandel may not be my first choice to pair with aged steak, BUT would you rather wear emperor’s new clothes or enjoy your steak.

  5. Bill Eyer says:

    The other Larry, could not have summed it up any better than he did! He makes excellent points and his premise is dead on!

    Thanks Larry!

  6. Larry Chandler says:

    Drink what you like. Eat what you like. Put a framed clown painted on velvet on your living room wall. Who am I to judge? Who needs Kandinsky anyway?

    But wine is a food. Or perhaps a spice or condiment added to your food. You want to roast a chicken? Great. How about some chocolate marshmallow sauce on top of that chicken? Who am I to judge?

    Certain wines do work better with certain foods. This doesn’t mean everyone has to like the same dishes or the same preparations of these dishes.

    When cooking, you don’t have to adhere to a strict recipe if you know some of the principles or guidelines. If you add too much basil or too little garlic or the food dries out a bit, ok, the meal is not ruined. And you can try it again another time.

    There’s no need to obsess over the perfect wine or the perfect recipe. But some wines or ingredients work better than others, and a meal is more enjoyable if the reasoning behind them is understood.