Crljenak kaštelanski - Zinfandel
Crljenak kaštelanski is an old and almost forgotten Croatian variety. It caught the attention of the domestic and foreign vine-growers, when it was discovered that Crljenak kastelanski and the American Zinfandel had the same genetic profile, i.e. that they represented the same variety, which finally unveiled the mystery of Zinfandel´s origin.
Zinfandel was brought to the US (Long Island) from the Imperial State Nursery of Vienna (which collected the varieties form around the Monarchy) at the beginning of the third decade of the 19th century. It was soon appreciated in the north-east of the country, mainly as grape. In the cooler climates it was grown in green-houses, while in California the first vineyards with this grape variety were planted in the 1930s. Its popularity grew swiftly, particularly during the so called "gold rush", and by the end of the 19th century it became the most widespread variety in the US.
The American popularity of Zinfandel lasts to date. The variety accounts for over 23% of the total national territory under viniculture, and is grown by over 200 producers. This highly estimated variety yields intensely coloured, strong, full-bodied wines. Unlike wines produced from some other red-berried varieties, the wines produced from Zinfandel are smooth, and have pronounced varietal flavour, which goes from discreet floral to strong fruit flavour. Its quality and character largely depend on the place of cultivation, the age of the vineyard, and the winemaking technology. The variety also yields pink wine called White Zinfandel, which was long the American favourite wine. Since the number of its lovers increased every year, in 1991 the association of Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (ZAP) was founded. Its main object was to promote the variety and wine, and support the specialist and scientific research on the variety.
Many of these researches dealt with its origin, which has attracted attention from the very beginnings of its cultivation. Although it was like other variei:Qs of the Vitis vinifera it was imported from Europe, because of the place which it holds in American culture and history it was long considered an "America´s vine and wine". The earliest discovery concerning its origin goes back to 1967 when professor Austin Goheen of the University of California Davis visited Italy where he tasted different wines and saw the variety called Primitivo, which reminded him of Zinfandel. The subsequent comparative study of Zinfandel and Primitivo pointed to the conclusion that they were one and the same variety. The thesis was definitely confirmed by professor Carol Meredith from the University of Davis, who -applying the so called DNA fingerprinting - proved their genetic identity. Yet, Primitivo was introduced in Italy relatively recently, later than Zinfandel first appeared in the USA. This left the question of its origin unsettled, although there was evidence that it was brought to the Italian region of Puglia from the East Adriatic, making the Croatian coast interesting as the possible origin of the variety.
Because of its morphologic similarity with Primitivo or Zinfandel, Plavac was first mentioned as the possible third name for the same variety twenty years ago. With the passing of time the hypothesis acquired more and more supporters. Finally, professor Meredith, decided to find out the true origin of Zinfandel. She was helped by some American producers (including Miljenko Grgic, the well-known American wine-maker of Croatian descent). Together with the collaborators from the School of Agriculture of the University of Zagreb (Ivan Pejic, Edi Maletic, Jasminka Karoglan Kontic, Nikola Mirosevic), she toured Dalmatia and collected over 150 samples of Plavac mali. The subsequent analyses showed that Zinfandel and Plavac mali were two different varieties, although genetically akin. In fact, it was found out that Zinfandel was one of the "parents" of Plavac mali. Encouraged by this discovery the Croatian scientists (Maletic and Pejic) continued the search, finding the other "parent" of Plavac mali. It was an ancient variety from the island of Solta called Dobricic. This narrowed down the area of investigation to the islands of Solta, Brae and Ciovo and the central Dalmatian coastal strip. Among many a collected sample there was also Crljenak kastelanski taken, on the recommendation of Ante Vuletin, from the vineyard of Ivica Radunic from Kastel Novi. The analysis showed that Crljenak kastelanski and Zinfandel had the same genetic profile. This resolved the mistery of the origin of the most popular American variety. The additional proof of the Croatian origin of Zinfandel came with the discovery that many other Croatian autochthonous varieties were closely related to Zinfandel/ Primitivo/ Crljenak kaštelanski.
Izvor: "CRLJENAK KAŠTELANSKI - ZINFANDEL"
Izdavači: Grad Kaštela, Turistička zajednica Grada Kaštela • Foto i tekst Kaštelanskog crljenka: Edi Maletić • Prijevod: Katarina Hraste • Design: Mario Klarić