What's the deal? - Printable Version

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- mrdutton - 01-15-2002

What do you think about this: Italian Zinfandel!

Have not tasted it yet, but I have just recently bought a bottle of vino imported from Italy that is labeled as Zinfandel.

Seems that someone in Italy has decided that since there is a genetic connection between Californian Zinfandel and Italian PRIMITIVO (DI GIOIA), then it is alright to label the Italian version as Zin instead of as Primitivo.

Roberto - what have your heard about this? Seems like a pretty good marketing ploy to get Americans to buy more Italian...... [img][/img]

- Thomas - 01-16-2002

My understanding is that labeling regs in the U.S. and in Italy allows the use of both or either varietal names.

I suppose if the DNA tests are accurate, then it is not a marketing ploy but a fact. But the one thing the wine industry has--universally--is ego power. Therefore, I also suppose somewhere down the line someone will come along to disprove the DNA.

- barnesy - 01-16-2002

I have read some stuff on this, but its kind of vague in the memory. On the DNA front, I think I saw that they have determined that one of the primitivo clones is zinfandel. As far as labeling it zinfandel, I think some californian wine producers are trying to get it so that Italians can't label their stuff zinfadel....hording in on their market...


- mrdutton - 01-18-2002

Here's the wine: 2000 Anfora Puglia Zinfandel, Indicazione Geografica Tipica. Bottled by Poggio Il Pino SRL Italia. Imported by American Wine Distributors, Inc., San Francisco, CA.

Alcohol 14% by volume.

Label says: From fruit sourced from old vineyards in Puglia's winegrowing regions, this wine was aged three months in barrel to enhance its lush Zinfandel expression and to preserve and smooth out its lively character. Both complex and fruit forward, it is already a charming table companion.

Very dark red almost purple color with enough clarity to read through it, this wine exhibits hints of plums, raisins and currants to me along with an earthy, lead pencil, tobacco/cigar wrapper taste and nose.
It certainly is not fruit forward on first and subsequent tastes, although there is fruit present on the nose and the palate. Frankly I think the earth and the tobacco beat out the fruit just slightly. Acid is there for sure along with a somewhat strong, astringent, tannic end to the swallow with finish that is tobacco and earth and then fruit. Holding the wine in the mouth causes the earthy tobacco side of the wine to flow back into the nose. There are enough of these smells and tastes to keep the 14% alcohol from becoming an issue.

I really don't think I'd be able to guess that this was Zinfandel had I not seen the label before I opened it..........

This wine has some of the characteristics I'd associate with an old world Italian rather than a new world Cali........ based on my limited experiences.

- Thomas - 01-19-2002

"plums, raisins and currents," sounds fruit forward to me...

I haven't tasted that particular wine but your description speaks to Puglia. Manduria is the best place for Primitivo, but the wine you have is Geografica Tipica, and as the label says, the Zinfandel--Primitivo, whatever it is--were sourced within the Puglia region. If it is Primitivo it likely does not represent the top shelf like, say, Primitivo from Leone di Castris (the absolute best I have tasted, yet pricey at $15).

- mrdutton - 01-20-2002

But did you notice that I said that the fruit seemed to be in the background rather than in the forefront?

Maybe I was not explicit enough on that point.........

- Botafogo - 01-30-2002

I have been complaining for years that (among others) California winery Hop Kiln was allowed to sell their Zinfandel labled as "Primitivo" but scores of Puglian vintners could not sell their Primitivo labled as Zinfandel. Pure economic discrimination if I've ever seen it. Evidently, someone got one past the BATF.....

Just back, still trying to remember how to speak English, Roberto

- Bucko - 01-30-2002

Now to complicate the picture, Zinfandel and Primotivo are not exactly the same, but clones according to UC Davis research. Carole Meredith will be published shortly on the true origin of the grape. This from

Using DNA profiling techniques, Meredith and two Croatian scientists, Ivan Pejic and Edi Maletic, discovered in December that Zinfandel and an indigenous Croatian grape called Crljenak are one and the same.

The modern search for Zinfandel's roots, so to speak, dates back to the late 1960s. While traveling in Italy, USDA plant pathologist Austin Goheen noticed that the Primitivo grape widely cultivated in the Puglia region bore a strong resemblance to Zinfandel. He brought Primitivo cuttings back to the University of California, Davis, where he was based, for a closer look.

Goheen made his assumption based upon visual criteria, but he could never be sure that Primitivo and Zinfandel were exactly the same variety.

Other later tests backed up Goheen's theory, but a definitive answer didn't come until the 1990s, when Meredith -- a professor of enology and viticulture at UC Davis -- used DNA profiling techniques capable of establishing grapevine identity beyond doubt. Meredith determined that Primitivo and Zinfandel were indeed two clones of the identical variety.


- Thomas - 01-31-2002

There are a host of varietal clones and many go by the name of the original. Cloning is a technique now used to create varieties that can withstand "un-natural" growing conditions, which is how Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, et al, can make it in the Finger Lakes region.

So, if Zinfandel and Primtivo are clones of the same grape, then they are--essentially--the same varietal.

- Bucko - 02-01-2002

Notice I used the word 'exactly.' There are almost 200 clones of Pinot Noir at latest count, and they are still Pinot. Same with Primotivo and Zin -- same basic wine. The names are nothing but marketing, no?

- Thomas - 02-02-2002

...they are now, but I'll bet the Italians have an originally different reason for the name Primitivo than the Californians have for the name Zinfandel. I always wondered from whence the name Zinfandel; seems melodic, if not flighty; but then, it is from the Left Coast...

[This message has been edited by foodie (edited 02-02-2002).]

- hotwine - 02-02-2002

That 'splains it, fer sure. All things otherwise inexplicable and altogether unreasonable can be attributed to Left Coastitis (such as the fonda broad).

- Innkeeper - 02-02-2002

As Willie G. points out, it coincidentally rhymes with sin-fun-hell.

- Thomas - 02-03-2002

IK, Willie and I talked yesterday about teaming up to do wine seminars--that would be true-fun-hell.

- mrdutton - 02-03-2002

I think that would be KEWL!!