Montenegro - the True Homeland of Zinfandel?

By , 06 Mar 2018, 16:46 PM Made in Montenegro
Montenegro - the True Homeland of Zinfandel? Pixabay

For several years, a group of Montenegrin wine enthusiasts led by Vlado Nikaljević and the late Vlado Duletić did their best in proving that the real origin of the grape that dominated California wine production for more than a century, is not from Italy or Croatia as it is believed, but from Montenegro. Montenegro, according to their research, not only has the oldest Kratošija (local name for the sort) wine crops but also has the earliest written proof of its cultivation in the Statute of the City of Budva (1421.) that mentions Kratošija as the local grape. 

According to many sources, Zinfandel was brought to the USA from the Hapsburg Monarchy, as one of the sorts of the Vienna collection, that featured all the grapes grown in the Empire at the time.

In 1962, Montenegrin academic Marko Ulicevic, during his visit to the US, discovered that the American Zinfandel is, in fact, Montenegrin Kratošija.

Later in the 1960s, California grape scientist Austin Goheen independently concluded that Zinfandel is the grape that people from the Puglia region of Italy call Primitivo. But only in 1996, DNA research proved that the two grape sorts are identical.

The people of Puglia knew that Primitivo was not an authentic Italian wine since the name Primitivo tells us that the wine comes from the "primitive" lands across the Adriatic. 

Croatia, at first, invested a lot in proving that Zinfandel is, in fact, Plavac Mali, a sort cultivated in Dalmatia, but tests confirmed that the two varieties, even with similarities, are not identical.

Tribidrag and Kaštelanski Crljenak were next among the Croatian grape sorts that were tested, which proved that they come from the same origin as the Primitivo and Zinfandel. 

Croatian winemakers invested a lot in proving the Croatian origin of the Zinfandel wine, and the campaign had its successes.

The Financial Times wine columnist, Jancis Robinson, wrote an interesting, insightful article on the subject last year, and she even mentions some clumsy attempts of Montenegrin winemakers to voice their opinion on the matter during the wine conferences, without any success.

Mr Nikaljevic states that he sponsored DNA research that proved Kratošija to be identical to Zinfandel. Now, if we have the Venetian archives to show that the Statute of the Venetian Budva mentions Kratošija 60 years before the Tribidrag references, we have a winner.

Another argument in favour of the Montenegrin storyline is the fact that Kratošija is being cultivated vastly, across the whole country. And every Montenegrin knows that the best homemade red wine is a mixture of the more popular Vranac and Kratošija in smaller quantities.

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