berry fruits like raspberry predominate in wines from
cooler areas, whereas blackberry, anise and pepper notes
are more common in wines made in warmer areas
with tomato sauce, pizzas, hamburgers (american fare)
zinfandel wine sauce dishes
Cellars "Maggie's Reserve", Seghesio Home Ranch Zinfandel
typically produce a robust red wine, although a semi-sweet
rose (blush-style) wine called White Zinfandel has six times
the sales of the red wine in the United States. The
grape's high sugar content can be fermented into levels of
alcohol exceeding 15 percent.
of the red wine depends on the ripeness of the grapes from
which it is made. Red berry fruits like raspberry predominate
in wines from cooler areas,
whereas blackberry, anise and pepper notes are more common
in wines made in warmer areas and in wines made
from the earlier-ripening Primitivo clone.
(6000 BCE -1870)
evidence indicates that domestication of Vitis vinifera
occurred in the Caucasus region around 6000 BCE, and winemaking
was discovered shortly after.
Cultivation of the vine subsequently spread to the Mediterranean
and surrounding regions. Croatia once had several indigenous
varieties related to Zinfandel,
which formed the basis of its wine industry in the 19th century.
This diversity suggests that the grapes existed in Croatia
longer than anywhere else. However, these varieties were almost
entirely wiped out by the phylloxera epidemic of the late
19th century, reducing Zinfandel to just nine vines of locally-known
"Crljenak Kaštelanski" discovered in 2001 on the Dalmatian
coast of Croatia.
documented use of the term Primitivo appears in Italian
governmental publications of the 1870s. The name derives
from the terms primativus or primaticcio, which
refer to the grape's tendency to ripen earlier than other
name's appearance 40 years after the first documented use
of the term Zinfandel was previously thought to suggest
that Primitivo was introduced to Italy from across the Atlantic;
however, this hypothesis became unlikely since the discovery
of the vine's Croatian origin.
is now thought to have been introduced as a distinct clone
into the Apulia region of Italy in the 18th century. Don
Francesco Filippo Indellicati, the priest of the church at
Gioia del Colle near Bari, selected an early ("primo") ripening
plant of the Zagarese variety and planted it in Liponti. This
clone ripened at the end of August and became widespread throughout
Cuttings came to the other great Primitivo DOC (denominazione
di origine controllata or "controlled denomination of
origin") as part of the dowry of the Countess Sabini of Altamura
when she married Don Tommaso Schiavoni-Tafuri of Manduria
in the late 19th century.
United States east coast (1829-1850)
of Zinfandel in the United States may have been via the Imperial
Nursery in Vienna, Austria, which likely obtained the vines
during the Habsburg Monarchy's rule over Croatia, which was
expanded when Austria acquired the Dalmatian territories of
the former Republic of Venice in 1797. George Gibbs,
a horticulturist on Long Island, received shipments of grapes
from Schonbrunn and elsewhere in Europe between 1820 and 1829. Sullivan suggests
that the "Black Zinfardel of Hungary" mentioned by William
Robert Prince in A Treatise on the Vine (1830) may
have referred to one of Gibbs' 1829 acquisitions. Webster
suggests that the name is a corruption of tzinifándli (czirifandli),
a Hungarian word derived from the German Zierfandler, a white grape
(Gruener Sylvaner) from Austria's Thermenregion.
visited Boston in 1830, and Samuel Perkins of that city began
selling "Zenfendal" soon afterward. In 1830, Gibbs also supplied
Prince with "Black St. Peters", a similar variety may have
come from England, where many vines have "St. Peters" in their
names. Little is known about this vine, except that the Black
St. Peters that arrived in California in the 1850s was the
same as what became known as Zinfandel by the 1870s.
Charles M. Hovey, Boston's leading nurseryman, was recommending
"Zinfindal" as a table grape, and it was soon widely grown
in heated greenhouses for the production of table grapes as
early as June. The first reference to making wine from "Zinfindal"
appears in John Fisk Allen's Practical Treatise in the
Culture and Treatment of the Grape Vine (1847). Meanwhile
the fad of hothouse cultivation faded in the 1850s as attention
turned to the Concord and other grape varieties that could
be grown outdoors in Boston.
and other nurserymen such as Frederick W. Macondray joined
the California Gold Rush in the 1850s, and took Zinfandel
with them. Prince's notebook records that the grape dried
"perfectly to Raisin" and that he believed his Zinfandel was
the same as the "Black Sonora" he found in California. When
the vine known as "Black St. Peters" arrived in California,
it was initially regarded as a distinct variety, but by the
1870s it was recognized as the same grape as Zinfandel.
W. Osborne may have made the first wine from Zinfandel in
California. He planted Zinfandel from Macondray at his Oak
Knoll vineyard just north of Napa, and his wine was much praised
in 1857. Planting of Zinfandel
boomed soon after, and by the end of the 19th century it was
the most widespread variety in California.
Zinfandel old vines are now treasured for the production of
premium red wine, but many were ripped up in the 1920s, during
the Prohibition years (1920-1933), but not for the obvious
reason. Even during the Prohibition, home winemaking remained
effectively legal, and some vineyards
embraced the sale of grapes for making wine at home. While
Zinfandel grapes proved popular among home winemakers living
near the vineyards, it was vulnerable to rot on the long journey
to East Coast markets.
The thick-skinned Alicante Bouschet was less susceptible to
rot, so this and similar varieties were widely planted for
the home winemaking market.
Three thousand cars (about 38000 t) of Zinfandel grapes
were shipped in 1931, compared to 6000 cars of Alicante Bouschet.
Prohibition (1933 - present)
the wine industry had weakened due to the Great Depression
Many vineyards that survived by supplying the home market
were located in California's Central Valley, a non-optimal
environment for growing quality Zinfandel.
Thus, the end of Prohibition left a shortage of quality wine
and Zinfandel sank into obscurity as most was blended into
undistinguished fortified wines. However, some producers remained
interested in making single varietal red wines.
middle of the 20th century the origins of California Zinfandel
had been forgotten. In 1972, one British wine writer wrote,
"there is a fascinating Californian grape, the zinfandel,
said to have come from Hungary, but apparently a cĂ©page now
In 1974 and 1981, American wine writers described it as "a
California original, grown nowhere else"
and "California's own red grape".
Bob Trinchero of the Sutter Home Winery decided to try draining
some juice from the vats in order to impart more tannins and
color to his Deaver Vineyard Zinfandel. He vinified this juice
as a dry wine, and tried to sell it under the name of Oeil
de Perdrix, a French wine made by this saignĂ©e method.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms insisted on an
English translation, so he added "White Zinfandel" to the
name, and sold 220 cases. At the time, demand
for white wine exceeeded the availability of white wine grapes,
encouraging other California producers to make "white" wine
from red grapes, with minimal skin contact.
However, in 1975, Trinchero's wine experienced a stuck fermentation,
a problem in which the yeast dies off before all the sugar
is converted to alcohol. He
put the wine aside for two weeks, then tasted it and decided
to sell this pinker, sugary wine.
Just as Mateus RosĂ© had become a huge success in Europe after
World War II, this medium sweet White Zinfandel became immensely
White Zinfandel still accounts for 9.9% of U.S. wine sales
by volume (6.3% by value), six times the sales of red Zinfandel. Most white Zinfandel
is made from grapes grown for that purpose in California's
considered white Zinfandel to be insipid and uninteresting
in the 1970s and 1980s, although modern white Zinfandels have
more fruit and less cloying sweetness.
Nevertheless, the success of this blush wine saved many old
vines in premium areas, which came into their own at the end
of the 20th century as red Zinfandel wines came back into
fashion. Although the two wines taste dramatically different,
both are made from the same (red) grapes, processed in a different
Relationship to Primitivo
and Crljenak Kaštelanski
was long considered "America's vine and wine", but when University of California,
Davis (UCD) professor Austin Goheen visited Italy in 1967,
he noticed how wine made from Primitivo reminded him of Zinfandel. Others also
made the connection about that time. Primitivo was brought to California
in 1968, and ampelographers declared it identical to Zinfandel
in 1972. The first wine made from these California vines in
1975 also seemed identical to Zinfandel. In 1975, PhD student Wade
Wolfe showed that the two varieties had identical isozyme
of Bari had suggested to Goheen in 1976 that Primitivo might
be the Croatian variety Plavac Mali.
By 1982 Goheen had confirmed that they were similar but not
identical, probably by isozyme analysis.
Some Croatians, however, became convinced that Plavac Mali
was the same as Zinfandel, among them Croatian-born winemaker
Mike Grgich. In 1991 Grgich and other producers came together
as the Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (ZAP) with the objectives
of promoting the varietal and wine, and supporting scientific
research on Zinfandel. With
this support, UCD professor Carole Meredith went to Croatia
and collected over 150 samples of Plavac Mali throughout Dalmatia,
in collaboration with the University of Zagreb.
Meredith used a DNA fingerprinting technique to confirm that
Primitivo and Zinfandel are clones of the same variety. Comparative field trials have
found that "Primitivo selections were generally superior to
those of Zinfandel, having earlier fruit maturity, similar
or higher yield, and similar or lower bunch rot susceptibility." This is consistent
with the theory that Primitivo was selected as an early-ripening
clone of a Croatian grape.
Meredith's team realized that Plavac Mali was not Zinfandel
but rather that one was the parent of the other. In 2000 they
discovered that Primitivo/Zinfandel was one parent of Plavac
Mali. The other parent of Plavac Mali was determined by
Ivan Pejic and Edi Maletic (University of Zagreb) to be Dobricic,
an ancient variety from the Adriatic island of Šolta.
narrowed down the search to the central Dalmatian coastal
strip and its offshore islands. Eventually a matching DNA
fingerprint was found among the samples. The match came from
a vine sampled in 2001 in the vineyard of Ivica Radunic in
Kaštel Novi. This Crljenak Kaštelanski ("Kaštela Red")
appears to represent Primitivo/Zinfandel in its original home,
although some genetic divergence may have occurred since their
separation. Meredith now refers to the variety as "ZPC" -
Zinfandel / Primitivo / Crljenak Kaštelanski.
vineyard contained just nine Crljenak Kaštelanski vines mixed
with thousands of other vines. In 2002, additional vines known
locally as Pribidrag were found in the Dalmatian coastal town
of Omiš. Both clones are being propagated in California
under the aegis of Ridge Vineyards, although virus infections
have delayed their release. The first Croatian ZPC wine
was made by Edi Maletic in 2005. Meanwhile, plantings
of Primitivo have increased in California, where it seems
to grow somewhat less vigorously than its sibling. Its wines
are reputed to have more blackberry and spice flavors.
wine-labeling regulations are slowly catching up with the
DNA evidence, a process that has been slowed by trade disputes.
The European Union recognized Zinfandel as a synonym for Primitivo
in January 1999, meaning that Italian
Primitivos can be labelled as Zinfandel in the United States
and any other country that recognises EU labelling laws. Italian
winemakers have taken advantage of these rules and shipped
Primitivo wines to the United States labelled as Zinfandels, with
the approval of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau
December 2007, the TTB lists both Zinfandel and Primitivo
as approved grape varieties for American wines, but they are
not listed as synonyms. U.S. producers, therefore, must
label a wine according to whether it is Zinfandel or Primitivo.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)
proposed in 2002 that they be recognised as synonyms, but
no decision on this proposal (RIN 1513–AA32, formerly RIN
1512-AC65) has been made.
is most widely known in the California wine industry, but
the grape is also grown in Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana,
Iowa, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina,
Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Washington.
U.S. producers make wine in styles that range from late harvest
dessert wines, roses (White Zinfandel) and Beaujolais-style
light reds to big hearty reds and fortified wine in the style
of port. The quality and character of American Zinfandel wines
largely depend on the climate and location in which they are
grown, the age of the vineyard in which they are grown, and
the technology employed by the winemaker.
California Zinfandel vines were planted as a field blend interspersed
with Durif (Petite Sirah), Carignan, Grenache,
Mourvedre, Mission and Muscat.
While most vineyards are now fully segregated, California
winemakers continue to use other grapes (particularly Petite
Sirah) in their Zinfandel wines. Zinfandel
is grown on approximately 11% of California's vineyard land
400,000 short tons (350,000 tonnes) are crushed each year,
depending on the harvest, placing Zinfandel third behind Chardonnay
and Cabernet Sauvignon and just ahead of Merlot.
20% of the Zinfandel-growing counties hold 80% of the Zinfandel
however, major producing areas such as San Joaquin County,
Stanislaus County, and Madera County produce Zinfandel primarily
for blends or jug wine.
California regions are regarded as "exceptional" for Zinfandel,
each with identifiable flavor characteristics.
has a reputation for big, full-bodied Zinfandel. These extra-ripe
wines have been called jammy, briary, and brambly, having
aromas of sweet berries.
the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA in Santa Clara Valley produces
Zinfandel from just 9 acres (3.64 hectares), the Zinfandel
from that region is known for its complexity and depth.
county has a Zinfandel-producing land area second only to
that of San Joaquin County.
The county contains the warm Dry Creek Valley AVA, known
for its juicy Zinfandel with bright fruit, balanced acidity
and notes of blackberry, anise and pepper.
Dry Creek Valley produces Zinfandel in a variety of styles
ranging from the high-alcohol Amador style to balanced,
Luis Obispo, particularly the Paso Robles AVA with its hot
days and cool maritime evenings,
produces Zinfandel known for being soft and round.
the Napa Valley AVA is known primarily for its Cabernet
Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah, Napa also produces Zinfandel
wines described as plummy and intense, tasting of red berry
fruits with cedar and vanilla.
Zinfandel in Napa tends to be made in a claret style like
Russian River Valley generally produces well during warm
vintages. Otherwise, the grapes do not fully ripen, leaving
the wines with excessive acidity. The
area has mostly "old vine" Zinfandel, characterized as spicy
and somewhat lower in alcohol than Zinfandel from other
County Zinfandel wines have been considered high quality,
but they are less known because they are not heavily marketed.
has some of the oldest Zinfandel vines in California. While
often used for White Zinfandel production, in the red style,
Lodi Zinfandels have a reputation for being juicy and approachable.
is grown in Puglia (Apulia), the "heel" of Italy, and it is
estimated to be the country's 12th most widely planted grape
The main three DOC areas are Primitivo di Manduria, Gioia
del Colle Primitivo (Riserva) and Falerno del Massico Primitivo
(Riserva o Vecchio).
The Manduria DOC covers still red wine as well as sweet (Dolce
Naturale) and fortified (Liquoroso Dolce Naturale, Liquoroso
Secco) wine. Falerno requires
a minimum of 85% Primitivo; the others are 100% Primitivo.
Gioia del Colle Rosso and Rosato contain 50-60% Primitivo,
and Cilento Rosso/Rosato contains around 15%.
the grape was fermented and shipped north to Tuscany and Piedmont
where it was used as a blending grape to enhance the body
of thin red wines produced in those areas. When the link between
Primitivo and Zinfandel began to emerge, plantings in the
region and production of non-blended varietal increased.
Today most Italian Primitivo is made as a rustic, highly alcoholic
red wine with up to 16% alcohol by volume (ABV). Some Italian
winemakers age the wines in new American oak to imitate American-style
form Crljenak Kaštelanski was not bottled in Croatia as a
varietal in its own right before the link to Zinfandel was
has since sent clones of both Zinfandel and Primitivo to Professor
MaletiÄ‡ in Croatia, which he planted on the island of Hvar. He made his first
ZPC wines in Croatia in 2005. There is high
demand for red grapes in the country, and the government has
been supportive of ongoing research. Figures from
the department of viticulture and enology at the University
of Zagreb claim that from only 22 vines of Crljenak KaĹˇtelanski
in Croatia in 2001, there were about 2,000 vines in 2008.
Zinfandel plantings dating from the 1930s have been found
in Baja California, Mexico.
There are also small Zinfandel plantings in Western Australia
and the McLaren Vale area of South Australia.
vines are quite vigorous and grow best in climates that are
warm but not too hot, because grapes may shrivel in hot weather.
Zinfandel's thin-skinned grapes grow in large, tight bunches
that are sometimes prone to bunch rot. The fruit ripen fairly
early and produce juice with high sugar levels. If weather
conditions permit, the grapes may be late-harvested to make
Zinfandel is often praised for its ability to reflect both
its terroir and its winemaker's style and skill.
are known for their uneven pattern of ripening: a single bunch
may contain both raisin-like, over-ripe grapes and green,
unripened grapes. Some winemakers choose to vinify the bunches
with these varying levels of ripeness, while others hand-harvest
the bunches, even by single berries, through multiple passes
through the vineyards over several weeks. This extensively
laborious practice is one component in the high cost of some
wines have been criticized for being too "hot" (too alcoholic),
although modern winemaking techniques have helped make them
more approachable. On the other hand, Zinfandel producers
such as Joel Peterson of Ravenswood believe that alcohol-removing
technologies, such as reverse osmosis and spinning cones,
remove a sense of terroir from the wine. If a wine has the
tannins and other components to balance 15% alcohol, Peterson
argues, it should be accepted on its own terms.
are harvested, the length of fermentation, the length of the
maceration period with skin contact and the level of oak aging
affect the wine's taste. The degrees Brix at which the grapes
are harvested dramatically affect the wine's flavor as well.
White Zinfandel is normally harvested early at 20°Bx when
the grapes have yet to develop much varietal character, though
some examples can develop hints of tobacco and apple skin.
At 23Â°Bx (the degree that most red wine is considered "ripe"),
strawberry flavors develop. Cherry flavors appear at 24°Bx
followed by blackberry notes at 25°Bx.
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