In these days of the much-maligned and often meaningless term ‘old vines’ the Zinfandel of California can come from plants of over 100 years old

by Peter Dean

Much of the current excitement around wines from California has centred on the New Wave of winemakers, and their often refreshing use of Old World and obscure varietals. Zinfandel, meanwhile, continues to bear the crown of being the underdog variety, even though it is considered to be California’s heritage grape and is America’s third most planted variety.

There has been much written in recent years about the origins of Zinfandel and Primitivo, the similar grape largely grown in Italy– current thinking is that both varieties point to a Croatian grape called Crljenak Kastelanski, although there is a claim from Macedonia that both varietals originated from there. There is controversy also as to who first introduced the grape into the States, but what is unequivocally true is that when it was planted in California it found its true home – the State is perfect for growing it with warm, dry summers, cool nights, well-drained volcanic soils and all the rain coming in the winter.

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