Zinfandel grape variety is today the third-leading winegrape variety in California, with more than 48,000 acres planted in 2013 and grown by more than 200 producers. For a long time this black-skinned wine grape was considered a genuine American grape variety, all until 2001 when it was discovered that Zinfandel is genetically equivalent to Croatian grapes Crljenak Kaštelanski and Tribidrag.
Croatia once had several indigenous varieties related to Zinfandel which the 19th century wine industry was based on. This diversity indicates that the grapes have been grown in Croatia longer than anyplace else. However, the phylloxera epidemic that occurred in the late 19th century almost entirely eradicated these varieties. As a result, Zinfandel was reduced to only nine varieties of Crljenak Kaštelanski.
Zinfandel entered the US in the 1820s via the Imperial Nursery in Vienna that attained the vines during the Habsburg Monarchy’s rule over Croatia. Zinfandel reached California during the Gold rush in the 1850s and quickly spread due to state’s agreeable climate and fertile soil.
In 1991 Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (ZAP) was founded in order to promote the species and wine, gathering Zinfandel enthusiasts. Research often focused on the origins of the grape, with the first data dating back to the mid 20th century when Austin Goheen, a professor from the University of California, discovered that Italian type Primitivo and Zinfandel are the same species, although Primitivo was grown in Italy much shorter than Zinfandel in the US. With the help of Mike Grgich, renowned American winemaker of Croatian origin, it was eventually determined that Zinfandel originates from Crljenak Kaštelanski, of which the sample was taken from the vineyard of Ivica Radunić from Kaštel Novi, Dalmatia.
Croatia has been a synonym for good wine for a long time, with the tradition dating back to the ancient times. When you decide to explore vast beauties of Croatia, make sure to do it with a glass of exquisite Croatian wine!
Photos: David McSpadden (Flickr) & Goran (Flickr)