Zinfandel, Primitivo two sides of same coin

By on July 12, 2015
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Wade Wolfe is the owner and winemaker at Thurston Wolfe Winery in Prosser, Washington.

Wade Wolfe, owner and winemaker of Thurston Wolfe Winery in Prosser, Wash., worked on genetic testing of Primitivo and Zinfandel when he was a Ph.D student in 1975. (Photo by Andy Perdue/Great Northwest Wine)

One of the great mysteries of the wine world through the years has been the relationship between Primitivo and Zinfandel.

According to some, they are the same grape. But if you go out into a vineyard with a grape grower or into a cellar with a winemaker, they will swear the two are different varieties.

All of this leads to confusion. For example, an Italian Primitivo can be labeled as Zinfandel and marketed as such in the United States. Yet for U.S. wineries, Zinfandel and Primitivo are considered different varieties.

It would appear that Zin and Primitivo are related to Crljenak Kaštelanski, a Croatian grape found on the Dalmatian Coast.

Carole Meredith, a researcher at the University of California-Davis, has done a lot of the modern DNA research on the grapes, though Wade Wolfe of Thurston Wolfe Winery in Prosser, Wash., worked on the genetic testing of Primitivo and Zinfandel when he was a Ph.D student in 1975.

Regardless of their origins, Primitivo and Zinfandel are becoming slightly more popular in the Pacific Northwest, with grape growers and winemakers working with the varieties in Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and Idaho.

Here are a few examples we’ve tasted recently. Ask for them at your favorite wine merchant or contact the wineries directly.

About Great Northwest Wine

Articles authored by Great Northwest Wine are co-authored by Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue. In most cases, these are wine reviews that are judged blind by the Great Northwest Wine tasting panel.

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