14 July, 2015
Evolution of the wine family
40 years after Miljenko Grgić spotted vine in the valley of Napa that seemed familiar to him, it has been proved Zinfadel is a genuine Croatian wine sort
Kaštelanski Crljenak or Tribidrag belongs to old and nearly left to oblivion autochthonous Croatian wine sorts, in the last few years experiencing Renaissance thanks to Zinfandel. America honours Zinfandel. It is the third most dominant wine sort used in 23% of the total wine production in the USA. More than 250 wine producers and bottle manufacturers wrap it with more than 4.800 labels. In 1991 that popularity resulted with establishment of the non-profit organisation Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (ZAP) that gathers enthusiasts and producers of Zinfandel with aim of promoting that wine sort through seminars, education and tastings. Americans considered Zinfandel as their sort and wanted to proclaim it as such in 2001. After a long-term research of the origins of the most popular American sort, prof.Carole Meridith of the American University in Davis, confirmed that Italian Primitivo is genetically identical to Zinfandel and Croatian Plavac mali genetically similar to Zinfandel. That was the moment she realised the roots of Zinfandel should be searched in Dalmatia. Concurrently, experts from the Faculty of Agriculture in Zagreb, prof.Maletić and prof.Pejić, have been trying through DNA method to prove and protect authenticity of Plavac mali. At the end of 2001, having visited old Dalmatian vineyards and collected more than 150 different samples of vine leaves, American-Croatian team of scientists discovered identical genetic profile – Kaštelanski crljenak. The mystery was finally solved: the roots of Zinfandel were found in Kaštela. Zinfandel is actually Kaštelanski crljenak and according to the registered data, it has been cultivated ever since the 15th century in Dalmatia under the name Tribidrag or Pribidrag. Hidden behind the name Zinfandel, this wine sort has been spread out worldwide from South African Republic, India, New Zealand, Australia, Chile to Argentina, and thus in Italy under the name Primitivo, in Montenegro and Macedonia it is known as Kratošija. In Croatia in 2001 the ruling red sort was Plavac mali, while simultaneously no winemaker bottled Tribidrag or Crljenak kaštelanski, very often that sort was mixed with other sorts in various red blends. Regarding Plavac mali, it still holds the same position, and Tribidrag has finally set his standpoint under the Croatian sun – ten winemakers started filling their bottles with this long-forgotten sort.
In the next few years that number shall increase as Tribidrag sorts, encompassing territory from Zadar all the way to Pelješac and Konavli, grow and bear fruit. ‘Wine grapes’ is known as the bible of the world wine producers; 1200 pages are dedicated to description of 1368 famous wine sorts, and five pages are devoted to Tribidrag. Jancis Robins, author of the book, expressed her impression with this wine sort at the promotion of her book in London, as she chose for the world elite wine society, out of 1368 sorts, nine for her audience to taste and Tribidrag was among the crowned nine ones. Tribidrag fascination does not stop here. Prof. Carole Meridith that took part in genetic research and authentication process of Zinfandel, used name Tribidrag on her label instead of Zinfandel. International conference organized by Cro-wine in Split, in May 2017, shall discuss family, history, journey, adjustment and modification of Tribidrag across diverse world sites. Conference ‘I am Tribidrag’ shall gather all the relevant world and domestic wine connoisseurs and experts to the original country of Tribidrag. In honour of the Tribidrag roots and journey, Split shall host, in 2017, tasting of all the world Tribidrag (regardless of the alias) varieties.