DNA testing reveals the truth behind Zinfandel's identity.
The process of DNA testing wine grapes is a little over 30 years old. Using modern DNA testing, scientists have been able to determine the parentage and migration history of many of the world’s most popular wine grapes. For example, they were able to determine that Cabernet Sauvignon is the child of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. Additionally, DNA testing helped to identify California’s "mystery grape."
Zinfandel arrived in California during the gold rush of the 1850s. During Prohibition in the 1920s, many Zinfandel vines were ripped out or abandoned and their history was largely forgotten. As California wine started to gain more attention in the 1970s and 1980s, Zinfandel was touted as a uniquely Californian grape, grown nowhere else in the world. However, some Italian winemakers noted how similar Zinfandel was to their Primitivo. In the early 1990s, as DNA testing of wine grapes was getting started, scientists discovered that Zinfandel and Primitivo are genetically the same grape. In the early 2000s, scientists further discovered that both Zinfandel and Primitivo are genetically identical to the Croatian grape Crljenak Kaštelanski, also known as Tribidrag.
Zinfandel tends to have flavors of raspberry, black cherry, blackberry, licorice, black pepper, cinnamon and other backing spices. Zinfandels from warmer climates may also have notes of fig or date. Oak aging may add secondary flavors of vanilla and additional spices. The Carol Shelton Wild Thing is from Mendocino, California–a cooler climate–so the flavors include more of the red fruits. The Cantele Salento Primitivo from Puglia, Italy–a warmer climate–has more of the fig notes coming through on the palate.
Compare Zinfandel and Primitivo for yourself and decide which one you prefer!