ask dr. vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs. You can also follow me on Twitter: @AskDrVinny.


Dear Dr. Vinny,

I have heard that some Italian producers are using the Zinfandel name to capitalize on California Zinfandel's success. Is this true?

—Jason, Kansas City

Dear Jason,

Sort of. Before DNA fingerprinting identified Zinfandel as the descendant of a Croatian grape called Crljenak, many people thought Zinfandel originated in Italy. In fact, an Italian grape called Primitivo is genetically identical to Zinfandel, with only minor clonal differences between the two.

For years, Primitivo has largely been marketed as "Italian Zinfandel." Now, Italian vintners are allowed to use the names Zinfandel and Primitivo synonymously, and it's not unusual to find bottlings from Italy's Puglia region labeled as either Zinfandel or Primitivo. For the most part, they're rustic, chewy and affordable wines. As far as motives are concerned, well, you can draw your own conclusions.

—Dr. Vinny

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