Zinfandel

Zinfandel: A History of a Grape and Its Wine

CHARLES L. SULLIVAN
FOREWORD BY PAUL DRAPER
Copyright Date: 2003
Edition: 1
Pages: 246
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt7zw181
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    Zinfandel
    Book Description:

    The Zinfandel grape—currently producing big, rich, luscious styles of red wine—has a large, loyal, even fanatical following in California and around the world. The grape, grown predominantly in California, has acquired an almost mythic status—in part because of the caliber of its wines and its remarkable versatility, and in part because of the mystery surrounding its origins. Charles Sullivan, a leading expert on the history of California wine, has at last written the definitive history of Zinfandel. Here he brings together his deep knowledge of wine with the results of his extensive research on the grape in the United States and Europe in a book that will entertain and enlighten wine aficionados and casual enthusiasts. In this lively book, Sullivan dispels the false legend that has obscured Zinfandel's history for almost a century, reveals the latest scientific findings about the grape's European roots, shares his thoughts on the quality of the wines now being produced, and looks to the future of this remarkable grape.

    Sullivan reconstructs Zinfandel's journey through history—taking us from Austria to the East Coast of the U.S. in the 1820s, to Gold Rush California, and through the early days of the state's wine industry. He considers the ups and downs of the grape's popularity, including its most recent and, according to Sullivan, most brilliant "up." He also unravels the two great mysteries surrounding Zinfandel: the myth of Agoston Haraszthy's role in importing Zinfandel, and the heated controversy over the relationship between California Zinfandel and Italian Primitivo. Sullivan ends with his assessments of the 2001 and 2002 vintages, firmly setting the history of Zinfandel into the chronicles of grape history.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93052-0
    Subjects: Environmental Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. FOREWORD
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    PAUL DRAPER

    Charles sullivan’s timely book presents a full history of the grape that is at the heart of California’s contribution to the world of fine wine. Just as Bordeaux established the reputation of Cabernet Sauvignon, Burgundy of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and the northern Rhône of Syrah, so California has established Zinfandel and set its standard of excellence. California today challenges, as do other wine regions of the world, the supremacy of the great wines of France. But with those varietals we are the challengers; we did not establish their reputation.

    Zinfandel cuttings from California thrive in Australia, South Africa, and...

  5. PREFACE
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  6. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xxi-xxii)
  7. CHAPTER ONE HOW I SOLVED THE HISTORICAL MYSTERIES SURROUNDING ZINFANDEL—SORT OF
    (pp. 1-8)

    I have not always been a wine lover. In fact, until i was well into my twenties, I drank beer at family dinners while others drank wine. But that changed in the mid-1950s when my wife, Rosslyn, and I were caught up by the early enthusiasm of what is often called the modern “wine revolution.” This was the time in the 1960s and 1970s when table wines became the dominant product of the California wine industry and when drinking wine with meals became a regular part of the lives of many Americans.

    Our first love was for slightly sweet German...

  8. CHAPTER TWO SOJOURN IN THE EAST
    (pp. 9-22)

    Americans in the english colonies of north america grew grapes from Florida to New England. In the early days of the republic, they took vines west to the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys. The growers were most successful when they raised grapes to eat. There were no great successes in the field of winemaking, although there were some admirable failures.

    The grapes the Americans used fall into three categories: the native varieties found growing in North America, the European vinifera varieties transported to the New World, and the chance hybrids between the two. (In the nineteenth century American nurserymen began deliberately...

  9. CHAPTER THREE HO! FOR CALIFORNIA!
    (pp. 23-30)

    John sutter’s lads on the american river, who discovered gold there on January 24, 1848, were building a sawmill in the Sierra Foothills to provide lumber for their boss to sell to the growing trickle of Americans who had been traveling cross-country and entering the Mexican province since 1841. California had been conquered almost bloodlessly by American forces in 1846. Nine days after the gold discovery, Alta California became part of the United States under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. This sparsely populated land was ill equipped to receive the thousands of adventurers who would begin pouring into Northern California...

  10. CHAPTER FOUR PLANT YOUR VINEYARDS! BEGIN NOW!
    (pp. 31-39)

    In the mid-1850s frederick macondray built a small glass-enclosed grapery behind his new San Francisco home at Stockton and Washington Streets. There he began propagating his vines as he had done in New England, but without the added heat for forcing. The city’s very cool summers and intrusive summer fog convinced him that he would never ripen grapes in open culture there. (People are still trying, with poor results.)

    Later he expanded his horticultural operations, which were by no means confined to viticulture. He bought land in San Mateo County, south of the city, and there built up his beautiful...

  11. CHAPTER FIVE BOOM! 1872–1890
    (pp. 40-50)

    The industrial and agricultural depression that gripped the United States from 1873 to 1878 hurt California wine producers and acted as a brake on vineyard expansion. The prices of all agricultural products were battered, and yet the amount of wine shipped out of state to the East Coast grew—partly a result of a decline in wine imports from France, whose vineyards were being wasted by the phylloxera root louse. The producers of California’s best table wines, such as Lefranc and Pellier in the Santa Clara Valley, Krug and Groezinger in Napa, and Dresel and De Turk in Sonoma, made...

  12. CHAPTER SIX THE HARASZTHY MYTH
    (pp. 51-71)

    When the matter came up in the press in may 1885, the first thing anyone should have asked was, “Well, can’t someone show me where Colonel Haraszthy mentioned the Zinfandel in his voluminous public writing on California wine?” It had been almost seventeen years since the extraordinary Hungarian had quit California for Nicaragua, where he apparently was devoured by alligators a year later. But he was well remembered as the man who, more than any other, had filled the Northern California press between 1857 and 1866 with letters, articles, speeches, and interviews on viticulture and winemaking. But if Agoston Haraszthy...

  13. CHAPTER SEVEN THE STEALTH GRAPE, 1891–1918
    (pp. 72-83)

    The amount of space i have taken to explain the origins of the Haraszthy legend and Zinfandel really misrepresents the importance of such concerns at the time. By 1887 the great boom of the 1880s was flattening out. Industry leaders and promoters, except for Arpad Haraszthy, had little real interest in the history or origins of grapes. Prices were falling, and by 1893 the bottom had fallen out of the wine market. During the depression that lasted through 1897, farmers of all commodities faced economic disaster. Thousands went under. This was the time of the great agrarian revolt we call...

  14. CHAPTER EIGHT PROHIBITION AND THE FRESH GRAPE DEAL, 1919–1933
    (pp. 84-97)

    Wine industry leaders were trying to sell more than wine at the Panama-Pacific Exposition. By 1915 the threat of national legislation prohibiting commerce in alcoholic beverages was palpable. Before the exposition, industry leaders had sent a team of filmmakers around the state collecting material for a movie on California winegrowing. Shown to more than one hundred thousand visitors to the Expo’s Wine Palace, the film depicted California wine as the product of happy, solid farmers and dedicated entrepreneurs whose tidy wineries placed a healthy beverage on the tables of ordinary Americans. There was almost nothing on the growing industrialization of...

  15. CHAPTER NINE THE TWO FACES OF ZIN, 1934–1969
    (pp. 98-115)

    When prohibition ended, a lot of old red table wine was sitting around under bond in California wineries. Just before the last Prohibition vintage, in 1933, twelve million gallons of dry wine were in storage, most of it red and, on average, of low quality, often oxidized and/or loaded with volatile acidity (read vinegar). Half of this table wine was listed as Zinfandel or claret. A large part of this poor stuff was blended into the 1933 wine and rushed onto the national market in 1934. The upshot was a great deal of wine on the shelves that was immediately...

  16. CHAPTER TEN OF PENDULUMS AND ROLLER COASTERS, 1970–1990
    (pp. 116-129)

    If a wine-loving rip van winkle had tasted the “magic flagon” in 1970 and awakened thirty, not twenty, years later, he certainly would not have been as confused as Irving’s Rip, at least not about Zinfandel. Looking back three decades, he’d not be surprised to see the average price of a bottle at $20.00 (about $3.90 in 1970 dollars), nor would he blink at the large number of the highest-priced bottles with alcohol readings of more than 14 percent. But little could he tell from the condition of Zinfandel in the year 2000 about the marvelous swings in popularity and...

  17. CHAPTER ELEVEN FAT YEARS, 1991–2001
    (pp. 130-146)

    Except for the wines of a few small producers in the lodi area, none of the rich and powerful Zinfandel wines that were the driving force of red Zinfandel’s revival and boom in the 1990s came from the Central Valley. The beautiful and well-muscled red phoenix that rose up during that decade and continues its popularity in the new century comes overwhelmingly from the coastal valleys north of Santa Barbara and from the Sierra Foothills.

    The interest in California Zinfandel in the 1990s took off like the stock market of those years. But the next decade has seen no bear...

  18. CHAPTER TWELVE THE MYSTERY OF ORIGINS SOLVED—PROBABLY
    (pp. 147-166)

    In the introduction to this book i discussed zinfandel’s mysteries, and subsequent chapters told the story of the vine’s transport from Austria to the New World (although there are still a few “smoking guns” I should like to discover). The Gold Rush voyage from New England to Northern California is fairly well settled, and Zinfandel’s discovery as an excellent wine grape, its growth in popularity, and its subsequent ups and downs, including its recent and perhaps most brilliant comeback, are now in the chronicles of grape history. But what of the vine’s European origins? Today most of the answer to...

  19. CHAPTER THIRTEEN INTO THE NEW CENTURY
    (pp. 167-178)

    From 1999 to 2002, the san francisco vintners club held three Zinfandel taste-offs among the top wines in each previous year’s preliminary competitions. Of the thirty-six wines represented, half were from Sonoma, eight were from Napa, and the rest, except for one, were scattered among the other premium Zinfandel districts: Paso Robles, Sierra Foothills, Mendocino, and the Santa Cruz Mountains. One old-vine preliminary winner was from Cucamonga.

    There was no geographical shift in the club’s findings in these recent years. In 1996 Sonoma had eight of the top twelve, Napa and Paso Robles two each. In 1994 the results were...

  20. APPENDIX: REGIONAL SUMMARIES
    (pp. 179-192)
  21. NOTES
    (pp. 193-208)
  22. SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 209-212)
  23. INDEX
    (pp. 213-224)
  24. Back Matter
    (pp. 225-225)