History of Zin
Zinfandel has been California’s “mystery grape” because its origins were unknown until recent DNA tests confirmed that Primitivo (from Italy) and Crljenak Kastelanski (an ancient Croatian variety) are genetically identical to Zinfandel grapes. Differences in vine vigor and cluster size separate Zinfandel from its genetic twins. Further differences in cultivation, terroir and winemaking combine to give Zinfandel its own particular flavor profile with a truly American name, history and style. On wine labels, U.S. regulations require that Zinfandel and Primitivo be identified separately.
Studies indicate that the grape used for making California Zinfandel probably originated in Croatia. Historians believe that in the 1820s a nursery owner brought Zinfandel cuttings that were Croatian in origin to the United States from an Austrian collection. The Zinfandel name, however, is truly American—the earliest and only documented use of the name is in America where a Boston nursery owner advertised Zinfandel for sale in 1832.
Zinfandel was introduced to California during the Gold Rush somewhere between 1852 and 1857 and became widely planted because it thrived so well in this state’s climate and soil. Today, Zinfandel is the third-leading winegrape variety in California, with more than 47,000 acres planted and 355,599 tons crushed in 2014, according to California Department of Food and Agriculture. It is grown in 45 of California‘s 58 counties. There are more than 4,800 California red Zinfandel wines. Promoted to the world by the state’s vintners for more than 130 years, Zinfandel has grown beyond cult status and is now internationally recognized due to the unique character and high quality wines produced only in the Golden State.
Popular descriptors for red Zinfandel include blackberry, raspberry, boysenberry, cherry, as well as black pepper, cloves, anise and herbs.
Zinfandel Advocates & Producers