History of Zinfandel, Primitivo, Crljenak Kastelanski, and Plavac Mali

on October 11, 2017

One of the most popular questions from wine enthusiasts visiting Croatia is whether Zinfandel truly originated from Croatia. In short, yes.

Wine lovers have been wondering about the origins of Zinfandel for at least a century. About 20 years ago we were told that Zinfandel was in fact Primitivo, a grape found in southern Italy and Sicily. Then, over a decade ago, we were told to forget about Primitivo, that Zinfandel was Plavac Mali, a Croatian grape.

Then, in 2001, researchers finally got it right. Through DNA profiling, Dr. Carole Meredith, with the help of two Croatian researchers at the University of Zagreb, Dr. Ivan Pejic and Dr. Edi Maletic, determined that the true origin of Zinfandel (and Primitivo) is a grape called Crljenak Kastelanski.

History of zinfandel wine

The origins of Zinfandel, revealed through DNA research (Courtesy of Carole Meredith)

Crljenak Kastelanski, Primitivo and Zinfandel grapes were a perfect DNA match, and Plavac Mali turned out to be what Dr. Meredith calls ”a son of Zinfandel,” a cross between Crljenak and the Dobricic grape.

The longstanding scientific mystery finally solved.



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