Are you thinking Italy….or perhaps France? You’re right in that the origin is Europe, but DNA analysis shows that the Zinfandel grape originated in Croatia. In fact, genetic scientists studying ancient grapes have uncovered evidence that Croatia once had an entire family of native grapes closely related to Zinfandel. As Zinfandel is now associated with California, how did this grape travel nearly 7,000 miles to the West Coast of the US from Croatia?
It is thought that the first entry of Zinfandel into the US was to New York in the 1820’s. It was then brought westward to California during the state’s 1850’s Gold Rush. During the last part of the 19th century when Zinfandel was being planted in California, ironically, Croatia was in the midst of a vineyard pandemic….most every single variety was destroyed due to a destructive bug call “phylloxera.” In fact, phylloxera annihilated nearly all vineyards in every country of Europe.
Croatia has >1,000 miles of coastline & 1,200 islands to explore
In the late 1990’s when plant scientists began studying the origin of different grape varietals, Croatia only had a few plantings remaining of its indigenous Zinfandel. To be exact, there were only 9 vines and they were found by accident in an old vineyard. Since this discovery, the country has been planting more Zin to capitalize on this heritage, however, the most planted grape in Croatia today is Plavic Mali, and Zinfandel is one of this grape's parents.
WineKnows will stop at this island---the birthplace of Marco Polo & terrific wine
In olden times vineyards were planted with an array of different grapes. All grapes were mixed next to one another---often times the person planting the vines didn’t even know what varietal it was. Somewhere along the way Zinfandel crossed with the obscure red grape, Doboric, and birthed Croatia’s current popular variety, Plavic Mali.
Your aperitif is waiting for you in September 2023!
Next week’s Blog will discuss how Zinfandel has adapted in California, as well as how its Croatian roots translate into the glass. In the meanwhile, to learn more about the 2023 yacht trip on Croatia's coastline, here's the itinerary: