Zinfandel is a wine truly made famous by California. Planted in over 10 percent of all Californian vineyards, the Zinfandel grape is an important player in the California red wine industry, creating a big, ripe red wine that comes with some of the highest alcohol content of any red wine on the market (between 14 and 17 percent). Due to the hot sun of California, Zinfandels have come to be known for their jammy, fruity characteristics.
It’s a juicy wine that’s begging to be opened at a barbecue.
The true origination of Zinfandel was relatively unknown until very recently. When Zinfandel began to be planted widely throughout California in the mid-1800s, it was generally accepted that it was a grape indigenous to the U.S. The vines thrived in the California climate, and many believed the grape must have existed in the region all along. It wasn’t until the 1960s, when a professor from UC Davis traveled to Italy and noticed similarities between Primitivo grapes and Zinfandel grapes that people began to question the grape’s origins.
Following the professor’s trip, many concluded that Primitivo was the connection to the iconic California Zinfandel, and that was that. However, a few scientists kept wondering if this was the end of the story, so they continued to search. As DNA testing became more advanced, scientists started testing the grape, and what they finally discovered was that the grape didn’t originate in Italy at all. In fact, the grape had no ties to any of the iconic wine regions of Europe, such as France, Italy and Spain, that were known to have brought many different grapes over to the New World during colonization. Instead it was found that the grape was born in the last place many would expect: Croatia.
With the discovery that the grape came from Croatia came the unraveling of how it may have made it all the way to California. Between 1820 and 1829, a horticulturist in Long Island received shipments of grape vines from the Imperial Nursery in Vienna, Austria. It is believed that the Zinfandel vines were included in those shipments. From this point, the vine made its way across the country during the California Gold Rush and the rest is history.
One of the most popular types of Zinfandel is what is known as Old Vine Zin; these are wines that are made from Californian grapes grown on vines that are at least fifty years old. These Zinfandels are known to be even bigger in flavor and intensity than their younger counterparts and are considered to create a more premium version of the wine, therefore Old Vine Zinfandel commands a higher price.