|Zinfandel was for many years
somewhat of a mystery grape, as far as its origins are
concerned. Recent research in Croatia and at the University
of California at Davis, using DNA profiling, has proved
Zinfandel is a clone of the Croatian variety Crljenak.
While it had been theorized that Zinfandel's genetic twin,
the Italian Primitivo, was the source, this grape also
originally mutated from Crljenak. Further research may
indicate the very first plantings migrated from Albania
2002, the TTB announced they are considering ruling
Zinfandel and Primitivo synonymous for use on wine labels.
Producers of California Zinfandel will probably object,
anticipating that Italian producers with a bountiful
supply would then be able to undercut the market with
inexpensive Primitivo wine labeled "Zinfandel".
Nearly as versatile as Chardonnay
in the number of different styles of wine produced from
it, it has only achieved widespread popularity in America
since 1980, as a pink, slightly sweet wine. In fact,
this popularity has so outstripped all other forms,
that many fans think that there is actually a grape
called "White Zinfandel" (there isn't)!
Zinfandel as a red wine that
can be made light and fruity, much like French Beaujolais,
or lively, complex and age worthy, like Cabernet or
Claret. It can also be made into big, ripe, high alcohol
style wines that resemble Port.
Because of its vigor, generosity
and resistance to vine disease, many zinfandel vineyards
exist that are 75 to 100 or more years old. Zinfandel
aficionados believe these "old vines" produce
the best wines, because the older vineyards set smaller
crops and the grapes tend to ripen more evenly. At its
best, Zinfandel (red) has a very fruity, raspberry-like
aroma and flavor and a "jammy" quality.
Zinfandel is one red varietal
that is probably best enjoyed in its youth, within three
to five years of the vintage. With more bottle age than
this, the luscious fruit that distinguishes Zinfandel
drops markedly and the wine can show a pronounced "hot"
taste of higher alcohol levels and become more neutrally
vinous. It is sometimes hard even for experienced tasters
to pick an older Zinfandel from among similar-aged Cabernet
Sauvignon, for instance (not that there's anything wrong