I love a good back story, it’s nice if it has a ring of truth to it, but I’ll be honest, I’m not that fussy. I’ve cycled across Spain to the site where a stone boat from the middle east was said to have landed with St James aboard, it didn’t put me off that the site was miles from the coast.
I’ve cycled from the Rhone all the way along the Loire to Tours to see the spot where a Roman soldier cut off half his cloak to give to a pauper, only to have his cloak miraculously grow back. I’ve traveled to Prague to see a mummified arm, one that was hacked off a thief as it was the only way to free him from a statue that grabbed his arm when he tried to steal its jewels.
It was therefore pretty easy to sell me a bottle of Buena Vista Vinicultural Society Zinfandel from Sonoma in California. The Vinicultural Society was set up in 1863 by Agoston Haraszthy, a Hungarian immigrant from a well to do family. He wasn’t a Count, but hey, in America no-one much understands titles so why not declare yourself to be one. He started major wine production in Sonoma, and claimed to be the man who brought Zinfandel to the Americas. He was elected Sheriff and build a jail.
After phylloxera wiped him out he declared bankruptcy and escaped with his wife and her money to Nicaragua to grow sugar and distil it into rum. I guess he hadn’t built the jail to the standard he’d have liked for living in. The story goes that he was eaten by an alligator, but in any event, he was never seen again. It’s since been proved that people brought Zinfandel from Italy decades before Haraszthy left Budapest, but no-one has yet disproved the alligator story.
The Buena Vista Zinfandel from M&S is a cheery purple with good legs. It smells of raspberries and blueberries with a woodiness that’s more cedar than oak.
It’s dry with a medium acidity and firm ripe tannins. It has quite an intense flavour of fruit, those raspberries and blueberries are still there, along with the cedar wood. There’s cinnamon and a little licorice too. It turns out the oak used in making the wine is American and French, but with more than a cameo for Hungarian oak. The alcohol level is at the upper end of medium, or the lower end of high depending on your optimism status.
It may be that the story sold me on the wine, but I enjoyed it, it had all the fun fruit and exuberance of everyday Californian Zinfandel, but with some more grown up flavours in the mix.
This wine is priced at £13, but Marks and Spencer currently have an online multi-buy deal that gives 25% off and free delivery.