For many years, the Zinfandel commonly call Zin, had origin that were the source of many talks.
For a while it was thought that the grape was indigenous to the US. Then, in the 1970's a basic DNA analysis showed that it's origin was link to the Primitivo, which is harvest in the Apulia (Puglia) region in the Southern part of Italy.
In December 2001, the UC Davis research group led by Dr. Carole Meredith with 2 scientists from Croatia were able to prove, as the DNA Analysis technique progress, that Zinfandel ancestor was a grape from Croatia called Crljenak Kaštelanski and Tribidrag use during the 18th century.
Crljenak Kaštelanski grape
How did it became a Zinfandel
Crljenak Kastelanski grape made it's way to the US via Vienna, Austria. Some say this is why the name change to Zinfandel who could have a German influence. Definitely easier to pronounce then Crljenak.
So, while the equivalent of the Zinfandel grew in Southern Italy under the name Primitivo (primo = early) as the grapes ripen much earlier than the other grape, the Zinfandel was being introduce on the East coast of the US.
The experience was not successful. Slowly it was brought to the West Coast where it found a better climate for it's need. Planted widely throughout California in the mid-1800's, it was generally believe that it was an indigenous grape to the U.S. The Zinfandel became a star.
Today 10% of the whole Californian vineyard is planted with Zinfandel grape. It thrive in California climate.
Meanwhile, late 19th Century; Phylloxera hit the whole European vineyard. Croatia is not spared and loose most of it's Crljenak Kastelanski grapes. The grape has a high propensity to Mildew and other disease.
In South Dalmatia they went on by planting very similar grape like the Plavac Mali which is less prone to disease. Paul Bradbury has a good blog on the subject.
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The Zinfandel offers Spicy notes mix with Pepper, Blackberry and Cloves.
The fruit ripen fairly early and produce juice with high sugar content.
Each grape mature differently, like each bunch would have it's own ripening pattern. They reach maturity at different time which incur for the winemaker to process the Zinfandel grape in a very particular way. Some will choose to vinify all together without to much attention to the level of ripeness other will proceed with the labor intensive process of hand harvest selecting each berries.
Obviously this process incur a higher cost to the retail price.
It's often said that the Zinfandel grape easily transmit the sense of terroir.
The Zinfandel should be drank at a temperature between 57F and 67F.
Bold with a high percentage of alcohol, the Zin pair very well with Grilled burger, Lamb, Seared Steak, BBQ Ribs and Sausage.