Chardonnay and Zinfandel are names of grape varieties that are made into wine. Chardonnay is a white wine that is typically dry but can be made into a variety of flavors depending on how it is aged. Zinfandel can be made into either white or red wine, with entirely different characteristics. Both are popular wines that even wine novices tend to be familiar with.
Chardonnay is a grape that may have originated in the Middle East and is now widely grown for white wine. It is grown in the Burgundy region of France, and became very popular after being grown in California. It is a versatile grape that produces well for vintners and is popular with wine drinkers since it can take on many characteristics. It can range from sweet to dry, from buttery oak flavors to light, fruity flavors. It is also one of the grapes that is used to make Champagne. It is generally best served with simply prepared fish or poultry.
Red Zinfandel is a wine grape grown primarily in California because it grows well in cool coastal areas. It is a deep red wine with hints of fruit flavors. It goes well with common American foods, such as pizza and burgers, and is strong enough to stand up to pasta with rich tomato sauce. Red Zinfandel should be drunk at a temperature between room temperature and fully chilled. Most should be drunk within a couple of years of being produced, but some age well.
White Zinfandel is actually a pale rose-color wine made from the Zinfandel grape that produces Red Zinfandel. For White Zinfandel, the wine is made without the grape skins. It is quite a sweet wine that works well with cream-based sauces over pasta or with fish and other light meals. Serve White Zinfandel slightly warmer than refrigerator temperature to allow the fruity flavors to develop. Some oenophiles consider White Zinfandel to be an inferior wine.
Choosing Chardonnay and Zinfandel
You can purchase good quality Chardonnay or Zinfandel without paying a lot of money. California, of course, has wonderful examples of both wines at reasonable prices. Look for a slightly darker White Zinfandel, which is likely to have more complex fruit flavors. Red Zinfandel wine can be spicy and include plum flavors or berry notes. Chardonnay can be purchased unoaked, for a light, fruity wine, or oaked, for a more complex, rich wine.
Karen Sheviak has more than 10 years of experience as a writer, researcher and copy editor for "Canadian Living" magazine. She has worked as a freelance editor for other magazines including "Toronto Life." Sheviak has a Bachelor of Arts in English and history from the University of Toronto and a diploma in journalism from Centennial College in Toronto.