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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
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.
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