The case of the mystery grape, that once ruled high and low across Californian wine country: an intriguing look into this big and bold red grape variety. It's almost too good to be true.
A Californian wonderIntroducing Zinfandel, a plump, dark skinned grape of the red wine persuasion. Calling California home, with over 44,000 acres currently under vine, it was introduced to this particular part of U.S somewhere around 1830-1850, during the Gold Rush era. It absolutely thrived in the Cali conditions, giving it warm climates and suitable soils. Nobody asked any questions and it was widely accepted that 'Zin' was firmly embedded in the viticultural history of America. Fast forward the best part of a century and the Zin-craze continued as it survived Prohibition Era, as the grapes were shipped east, to make a fine drop behind closed doors. Up until only recently, it was the most planted red grape variety in California usurped only by the rising glamour of Cabernet Sauvignon.
The story unfoldsIt was in 1967, that a professor from a the University of California, Davis (UCD) discovered the similarities between Primitivo and Zinfandel. At this point, follows a chain of events almost depicting a 90s drama thriller starring Susan Sarandon. During testing of the grape variety, it was discovered that Zinfandel shares the isozyme fingerprint or grape 'DNA' as Primitivo. This evidence coincides also with findings made about the initial plantings of Zin back in the 1830s. These cuttings had in fact been imported from the Austrian imperial nursery in Vienna. What's presented at this stage is that Americans had to come to terms with the fact that their grape, was not actually theirs. But who's was it? Where did it really come from? How did an Italian varietal end up in Gold Rush Cali?
|Zinfandel was once thought to be native to California.
|’White Zin’ was the highest selling premium wine in the US in 1987.
|Zinfandel is genetically identical to the Italian Primitivo variety.