I had thought to write about the Cult Cabernets of Napa Valley, something befitting a tribute to our fair nation, and then I happened to attend a seminar on Zinfandel last month, and the notion of spending a little bit of time writing about what the world agrees is America’s grape seemed a more fitting patriotic salute.
Nothing concrete is known about exactly how Zinfandel came to be in this country. More than likely, it arrived via the Royal Nursery of Austria, the premier nursery for vine cuttings in the world at that time, and came through the hands of George Gibbs, a horticulturist in Long Island, New York. The origin of the cuttings was undoubtedly the Dalmatian coastline, at the time under the monarchical rule of Austria.
A thin, black-skinned grape variety, it was saved from extinction during Prohibition only due to its high yields and selected as grape of choice for most home winemakers (as home winemaking was permitted by law at the time).
Much has been deliberated about its origins, and for a time, it was thought that Primitivo, a grape that hails from the Puglia region in Southern Italy, was its progenitor. However, DNA testing concluded Zinfandel and Primitivo are more cousins, and that Zinfandel actually pre-dated Primitivo (the U.S. Tax and Trade Bureau allows their names to be interchangeable on labels here in the states). Plavac Mali, a Croatian grape, was also speculated to be the parent of Zinfandel, but oddly enough, Zinfandel actually proved to be Plavac Mali’s papa. The likely origin of Zinfandel comes from the ancient Croatian grape varieties Crljenak Kaštelanski and/or Tribidrag, depending upon whose research you cite.
Whatever its lineage, thanks to being cultivated on American soil for well over 150 years, the world concludes that Zinfandel is America’s grape. And to commemorate this fact, take a look at some of our fine collection of Zins, perfect for what you’ve got coming off your grill this summer.