Vine varieties: Zinfandel

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

Conclusively shown in 2003 by Dr Carole Meredith of davis to have originated in croatia (see zinfandel), California’s signature grape languished to the point of extinction in its native home. It is a thin-skinned variety with compact, often large, clusters which are prone to rot in wet conditions. But from the time it arrived in the 1850s, Zin flourished in the dry California climate. Virtually a California exclusive for more than a century, the variety for long suffered from an image problem. Apparently lacking any European forebear, let alone a famous one, it had to be taken on its own terms. Few critics had the independence of mind to do so, and so until the mid 1990s it was consigned to the category of a low-priced, honest, Italian-American working man’s wine. All that has since changed. Well-made examples from 80-year-old and older vines (one of California’s great viticultural treasures—see the historic vineyard society) routinely command very respectable prices.