Appears in
Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

Zinfandel is the best-known California name of the black grape variety known in its native croatia as both tribidrag and crljenak kaštelanski and in Puglia as primitivo. California grows far more of the variety than anywhere else: nearly 48,000 acres/19,433 ha in 2012. The wines produced there have tended to mirror the giddily changing fashions of the American wine business.

For much of the 20th century, the viticultural ‘pioneer’ Agoston haraszthy was credited with introducing this important variety to California from his native Hungary, but a more worthy Zinfandel hero is the California historian Charles L. Sullivan, who unearthed the truth, or at least part of it, about Zinfandel’s route to California. It was he who pointed out that there was no mention of Zinfandel in Haraszthy’s copious promotional literature in the early 1860s, and that, long before Haraszthy arrived in California in 1849, the variety was well known on the American East Coast.