The birthplace of Zinfandel

The Zinfandel grape was not always a super sexy wine from the sunny hills of California. Before this American sweetheart became everybody’s favourite, it lived a harsh life on the Dalmatian hillsides. And it’s name was Crljenak Kaštelanski. Learn how this extraordinary wine found its way to America – and how viticultural CSI traced its roots back to Croatia.

A team of enthusiasts led by Croatian born Californian winemaker Mike Grgich challenged the Zinfandel viticultural community to search for the origin of the vine in Croatia, and in 2001, UCD professor Carole Meredith traced back the origins of Zinfandel to a hillside of Split, Croatia – specifically the town of Kaštela.

After years of research and DNA testing of vines from vineyards across the globe, a single 90-year-old grape vine from the garden of an elderly lady in Split, Croatia, provided the evidence to show that Zinfandel was a Croatian grape, that has been known as Tribidrag since at least the 15th century.

The research also showed that Zinfandel’s Italian cousin, the Primitivo grape, too, was a descendant of the Crljenak Kaštelanski, and that the old wine just has gotten better and better after each ocean it crossed.

The Croatian Zinfandel can be sampled in one of many wine bars is Split. We tried a couple and can report back that even though the Crljenak Kaštelanski has the same deep red tones as the Zinfandel, it lacks the fruity, raisin tones of its American descendant.

But your hardworking Travel Team is not likely to give up the hunt that easy. Extensive research in more wine bars has to be conducted. It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta to it!

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