For years we argued about whether is more correctly called Zinfandel (USA) or Primitivo (Italy), but recent evidence gives it a Croatian origin.
For several decades controversy surrounded the identity of what were regarded as two separate grape varieties - Zinfandel and Primitivo.
The grapes were obviously very similar, but there was no completely objective way to define whether they were separate varieites, as the Californians argued, or clones of the same variety as the Italians posited.
Not surprisingly, there was a commercial motive in the background as well. Puglian winemakers argued that they should be able to market their wine in the USA as Zinfandel.
In the 1990s some Croatian winemakers joined the fray contending that the variety they called Plavic Mali was Zinfandel too. They also wanted to be permitted to use that name on wines they exported to the USA.
Just in time DNA profiling technology came to sort things out with some sort of objectivity.
Here is current consensus about this variety, backed by modern DNA analysis as reported in Jancis Robinson's book Wine Grapes
Primitivo and Zinfandel are genetically identical, hence they can be correctly identified as clones of the same variety, but see more on this below. See this article to understand the difference between a clone and a variety.
Plavic Mali is a similar but distinct variety. DNA shows that it is a cross of Zinfandel and another Dalmatian variety.
It has also been established that the Croatian varieties Crljenak Kastelanski and Tribidrag are also genetically identical to Zinfandel. Mercifully the later name is older and therefore more correct, making life simpler for those of use unfamiliar with Slavic languages.
Each of the four names are acceptable. My guess is that the Italians will keep calling their's Primitivo and the Americans will use Zinfandel. In Australia winemakers can use any of the names. Those wishing to emphasise the Italian style of their wine are using Primitivo. Nobody seems to be calling their wine Tribidrag Australia. Yet.
. . . deep ruby, blackberry, peppery . . .
These are some of the adjectives used for this variety on De Long's Wine Grape Varietal Table
Zinfandel has been grown for some time in Australia. Among the pioneers was Cape Mentelle in the Margaret River Region.
Read what some Aussie winemakers say about Zinfandel in this article.
Zinfandel red wines are often robust and have moderate to high alcohol. Thus they can be combined with all sorts of barbecued meats.
They will also stand up well with spicy Asian dishes, say steak with capsicums and black bean sauce.
You might even try Zinfandel with game meats, say wild boar, hare or grilled kangaroo fillets.
A few years ago I asked some readers for suggestions.
Zinfandel with its opulent fruit characters and the excellent tannins I find works exceptional well with game meats.
I love a kangaroo steak and I find myself reaching for a bottle of Zin every time.
"Smoked salmon with horseradish cream"
Hardly surprising as she and her husband Brian are also owners of Newman's Horseradish.
I'm thinking chilli con carne made with chocolate and cumin in the sauce.
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