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You’ve very likely heard of Zinfandel wine, but how much do you actually know about the red grape itself? There’s a pretty interesting story behind it, including the long debate over its origin that was finally solved thanks to the hard work of some fantastic researchers. Whether you’re into Zinfandel or White Zin, let’s dive a little more into the story behind Zinfandel wine grapes so the next time you’re about to sip some Zinfandel wine, you have a little extra knowledge behind what you’re drinking.
The Origins of the Zinfandel Grape
There’s been a long-standing debate over the Zinfandel grape’s origin. It was a big mystery for awhile, but it turns out it’s actually identical to Crljenak kasteljanski, a Croatian grape. You can thank Carole Meredith – who is a grapevine geneticist and was a professor at the University of California, Davis – along with Dr. Edi Maletic and Dr. Ivan Pejic for the discovery and findings. Despite how long Zinfandel has been around, it wasn’t until 2001 when everything came together and the DNA analysis was done. Yay for science!
Where it Grows
According to zinfandel.org, the Zinfandel growing regions take up a good chunk of California including the Central Valley, the Sierra Foothills, Napa Valley, Sonoma County, and the Central Coast. There are different grape and wine characteristics that come with each area, but they all have a long rich history. For example, it was between 1852 and 1869 that there were documented Zinfandel plantings in the Sierra Foothills and in the Central Valley they date back to about 1858.
The Association of Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (ZAP)
Did you know that there’s an Association of Zinfandel Advocates and Producers? ZAP is all about those who love the Zinfandel grape and the wine it produces. Founded in 1991, the organization gives fans a chance to come together to talk about the wine, socialize at events, meet winemakers and wine enthusiasts, and generally just get to know more about Zinfandel. Should you want to join, there are four different membership levels you can consider purchasing.
Although there’s Zinfandel and White Zinfandel (a.k.a. White Zin) wine, it all comes from the same red grape that has clear juice. To summarize, the sweet blush-colored White Zin is made by crushing the grapes but not leaving the skins in contact with the juice for a long period of time (which is why they have a pink color rather than a bold red that comes with Zinfandel wine). You can thank Bob Trinchero of Sutter Home for coming up with White Zin back in the 1970s. Who knew that a little accident would turn into such an incredibly popular wine?
Now that you know a little more about Zinfandel wine grapes, maybe it’s time to head out and taste-test some excellent Zinfandel wines to see what the little fruit can do. There are certainly plenty of different varieties to choose from, so chances are you can find one that appeals to you. Who knows, you may end up finding a new favorite wine.