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Tribidrag Key to Zin’s Origin

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Celebrating Croatian wine and Croation food on a summer evening Celebrating Croatian wine and Croation food on a summer evening

TASTE News Service, May 10, 2017 – Last week the New World met the Old in Split for the first international “I am Tribidrag” conference.

Industry professionals,researchers and winemakers gathered in this Croatian city to talk about the success of one of the oldest and the most widespread indigenous Croatian grape variety – Tribidrag, also called Crljenak/Pribidrag. This red grape variety, widely-planted in California, has its origin Croatia.. More than hundred attendees had a chance to taste twenty wines from different terroirs around the world – all made from the same grape variety, Tribidrag.

Split in Dalmatia County welcomed the conference and Douglas Jones, Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Croatia stated that the “Story of the Zinfandel, or Tribidrag, is a story of new special connection between the two countries, Croatia and the United States.”

Revival of the Tribidrag in Croatia

Mike Grgich Bench PicmonkeyMike Grgich enjoys a glass of Chardonnay in his California vineyard

The story of Tribidrag is indeed, much more than just a story about one grape variety; it was the trigger for scientists of both countries to work closely for years in the search for the roots of Zinfandel. Carole Meredith, professor from the University of California, Davis, continuously searched for the roots of Zinfandel for more than 20 years. In this research, Carole met professors from the Faculty of Agriculture, University of Zagreb, Edi Maletić and Ivan Pejić, and together they found almost forgotten, old vines of Tribidrag in Kaštela vineyards, near Split. “After the discovery, there were only 25 live old vines of Tribidrag in Croatia. Nowadays we are proud that the production is revived, and we have 10 hectares of new plantings here in Croatia,” said professor Edi Maletić.

Carole Meredith receives the Order of Danica Hrvatska recognition

For her extraordinary contribution, Professor Carole Meredith received Order of Danica Hrvatska with the face of Ruđer Bošković, special recognition for science. The Order is assigned by the President of Croatia, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović and was awarded by the Presidents delegate, prof.dr.dc. Maja Fredotović from the Faculty of Economics, University of Split.

The surprise of the opening ceremony

Legendary Croatian winemaker from California, Miljenko ”Mike” Grgić, was one of the first to notice similarities between Zinfandel, and the wine he used to drink in his homeland Croatia – Plavac Mali. After coming to Napa Valley, he heard a story of a grape variety with an unknown place of origin and immediately shared his suspicions with the researchers of the University of California, Davis. The researchers already knew that the roots for Zinfandel needed to be searched in Europe, and then, 40 years after Grgich saw the first vine in the Napa Valley, the mystery was finally solved.

“It makes me happy that the interest in Zinfandel / Tribidrag didn't disappear. This is a historical conference that will put the value to the grape variety of Tribidrag,” Miljenko Grgić mentioned on a touching video. Because of his age, he wasn't able to come to the conference but you can take a look of the shorter version of his video, at the https://tribidrag.org/2017/04/27/mike-grgich-interview/?lang=en

How the search continued in Croatia

Plavac Mali Bottle Shot PicmonkeyProfessor Ivan Pejić described how the search, popularly called the ZinQuest, continued in Croatia. They were collecting samples of different Plavac Mali grapevines, more than 150 in total, and sending them back to the University of California, Davis for the processing. None of them was the right match, identical to the Zinfandel and Primitivo, but most of them were – relatives. That justified further investigation and led eventually to the discovery of old Tribidrag vines that were identical. “After the Tribidrag was listed in the wine bible, “Wine Grapes”, as the official name for Zinfandel and Primitivo, the discovery became visible.” stated prof. Pejić.

The conference “I am Tribidrag” drew the two authors of the book, “Wine Grapes”, Jancis Robinson and José Vouillamoz. Together they put together a panel to discuss “Tribidrag in the rest of the world,” which was closing panel of the conference on Friday, 28th April. “Everyone can be proud to be associated with this diverse grape variety. Tribidrag is the grape that played a big role in connecting the two countries, Croatia and United States. We all learned much at this conference. The only thing I can say at the end is I am Tribidrag” said Jancis Robinson.

“I am Trbidrag” Conference Program

The two day conference “I am Tribidrag” was organized with the goal of extending the knowledge about the Tribidrag grape variety and its revival in Croatia. Guest speakers at the conference, David Gates from the Ridge Vineyards and the “Godfather of Zinfandel,” Joel Peterson ( also owner of one of the oldest Zinfandel vineyards in California), discussed the success of Zinfandel in the United States. The variety is still one of the most planted grapes in California and, thus, one of its most popular red wines. The production methods are diverse, but most bottled Zins produce very powerful red wines with much character.

Another country where Tribidrag is going through a revival process is Italy where the variety is called Primitivo, which is the dominant grape variety in Manduria. Lisa Gilbee, owner of the Primitivo-producing Morella winery, presented traditional Primitivo wines, high in alcohol content and dominant rustic notes on the nose, rather than those of Italian winemakers who’re following the modern, more elegant trend with this variety.

Production in Croatia is still very young and modest, since the first vineyards were starting to replant after the discovery in 2001. From the starting point of only 25 vines of Tribidrag, today we see more than 15 producers with 10 hectares of new plantings. Professor Edi Maletić and Goran Zdunić, Head of Department of Plant Sciences in Split, presented five Tribidrags from Croatia.

Tribidrag, a grape variety with more than few names, has spread to other continents too. The conference also showcased some of the examples from India, South Africa, Australia and Chile.

Editor’s note: For more information visit https://tribidrag.org