Affectionately known as ‘Zin’ in the USA, Zinfandel which is also officially known as Primitivo in Italy, this dark-skinned grape sparked a 30-year discussion or rather disagreement ultimately resulting in the DNA research called the ‘Zin-quest’.
Who knew a grape would need the intervention of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms! Well the 30-year discussion, which end with the DNA research being carried out at the University of California by Carole Meredith, from the early 1990’s to 2002. Meredith’s DNA research confirmation that indeed Zinfandel is identical to Italy’s Primitivo.
Though the discussion ended in a ‘draw’, it did open up another chapter in the varietal’s history such as the origins of it’s arrival to into the US and the name Zinfandel?
Primitivo, known by various names including Tribidrag and Crljenak Kastelanski, arrived in Italy via Croatia, but how Zinfandel made its way to the US in the mid-19th century is a mystery! Did it come from Italy or another route? This remains and will remain unanswered, just like the linguistic origins of the name or word Zinfandel. Your guess is as good as anyone’s……!
The grape and its ‘wine styles’
Predominantly made into a robust red wine, our friends across the pond, in order to capture the ‘white wine’ drinking market in the US, started, in the 1970’s, producing a ‘white zinfandel’ - a semi-sweet rosé or blush-style wine (which sells 6 times more than in the robust red style).
Ripeness of the grape plays a big part in the taste of the wine. Wines from warmer climates will have notes of spice, blackberry, pepper, cocoa, and star anise. Colder climates wines elicit notes of more of a red berry with a fruit flavour.
If you say Zinfandel, I recommend letting your taste buds visit the Mendocino County in California where the welcoming PWR Poor Ranch Zinfandel by Matt Reid awaits you. However, if I said Primitivo, I would have to go with our Italian friends at Masseria Cuturi, their moreish Tuma Primitivo Puglia is simply a taste of the old world. You choose …. either way is correct!