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The lap dancer of wines, it was created sometime in the Seventies when everyone wanted to switch from spirits and beer to wine. Now it's the popular choice of women in the Beer Belt who want to show themselves a little more classy than that skank down the bar. Hell, it's pink! It tastes like fruit punch! And...it's cheap! Also popular with hand-kissers who think that they're paying a compliment to their "special lady", without going whole hog for champagne (I'm not made of money, you know).

Yet for all the scorn poured over this wine over the years, it hides a premium pedigree: namely, old vines. Old zinfandel vines, planted from the years before Prohibition, and therefore precious and irreplaceable. Taking care of older vines is like taking care of an eighty-plus storied, spoiled old-money heiress: you're going to have to deal with a list of medical/aesthetic/pampering problems as long as your arm, yet she'll be (potentially) extremely rewarding in terms of personality, living history and shall we say, monetarily, as well. The list of diseases goes up and the productivity goes down. The juice becomes difficult to turn to good wine, yet when it does, it's usually high-alcohol, complex, and the kind of thing that gets passed between Heads of State, if not The Gods Themselves.

Only, it's a crapshoot, and you might have to deal with a lot of blah wine in between hits. Also, your normal Joe isn't going to buy an expensive wine every day, either. So in order to keep his older zin vines from being torn out and turning into baskets, in 1972, Bob Trinchero of the Sutter Home Winery used the not-so-promising grapes from the older vines to make white wine.

White wine was THE favorite tipple of the Seventies: it was lighter than spirits, more classy than beer, and produced few, if any ill effects if drunk in large amounts. (Ah, the Age of Excess...) Rosé wine was also extremely popular, especially the slightly sweet, slightly fizzy Portuguese wine called Mateus, which was at that time, possibly the most friendly wine on the planet. (You didn't need to worry about pairing it with anything, it was one step away from grape soda, it had a funky bottle that looked good empty on a shelf...) Anyway, it looked like a good idea to skin the grapes to turn not-so-hot red into indifferent white, which was marketed as "White Zinfandel".

Except it didn't always work. Taking the skins off the grapes left few nutrients for the yeast, which in some cases, led to "stuck fermentation", when the yeast dies off from alcohol poisoning and starvation before the fermentation is done. Re-adding skin extract, a common remedy, produced a strange fruit-punch/wine beverage that was neither white wine nor rose, but a pinky-orange color. This was labeled "White Cabernet", and they soon found they had a hit on their hands, that would well make up for having a bunch of crotchety old vines to pamper. However, other wineries, using actual Cabernet grapes, dubbed their versions "blush", and so the name stuck. Nowadays, Sutter Home has a whole vinyard of newer growth Zinfandel to use for their blush, as do more than a few others, while the actual Old Zin vines now are prized to make the noble beverage for which they're noted.

In the 1980's, blush wine actually became chic for a while (it's pink!) among the shoulder-pad set (the advent of Big Weddings also seems to be a factor). Now, it's still around, but don't ever admit to liking it in a good wine shop....

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