About Tribidrag

Tribidrag is an old and almost forgotten indigenous Croatian wine grape variety, which has been undergoing a revival in recent years, thanks to Zinfandel’s reputation, a grape variety that has attained a cult status in the United States. As the third most widespread wine grape variety, Zinfandel is produced by more than 250 winemakers and bottled with over 4,800 different labels.

Considering it to be their indigenous wine grape variety, the Americans wanted to protect Zinfandel in 2001. Coincidentally, it was in that same year that DNA profiling revealed that Zinfandel was actually originating from Croatia. Dr. Carole Meredith, Professor at the University of California at Davis, after years of research into the origins of the most popular American grape variety, confirmed that Italian Primitivo was genetically identical to Zinfandel and that Croatian Plavac mali was genetically related to Zinfandel. She then realised that the search for Zinfandel's roots should be continued in Dalmatia.

In late 2001, after previously having visited old Dalmatian vineyards and collected over 150 different vine samples, the American-Croatian team of scientists found an old vine in Kaštela near Split, with identical genetic profile to Zinfandel – called Crljenak kaštelanski.
Soon, it will become apparent that this variety used to be massively grown in the past and besides Crljenak kaštelanski name used to have several other names (synonyms) such as Pribidrag in vicinity of the town of Omiš, Kratošija in Montenegro and Tribidrag, as the oldest and most widespread name. Historical documents witness that Tribidrag used to be economically very important wine in Dalmatia since 15th century.

After a good forty years since Miljenko Grgić first saw a vine in the Napa Valley that looked very familiar to him, the mystery was finally solved: Zinfandel’s roots were found in Dalmatia.In the period preceding Croatia's accession to the EU, Dr. Meredith’s research was paralleled by research conducted by Dr. Edi Maletić and Dr. Ivan Pejić, Professors at the University of Zagreb Faculty of Agriculture, who were doing systematic genetic characterization of all indigenous Croatian grape varieties.

However, in the late 20th century this grape variety came near extinction, so that individual vines of this variety were found in Kaštela and Omiš only after a long and detailed search.
Genetic analyses have shown that Tribidrag is genetically related to several other Croatian native varieties and parent of currently the most important Dalmatian red wine grape variety, Plavac mali, as well as that it is grown under the name Primitivo in Italy and under the name Zinfandel in California.

In Croatia, its homeland, the production of this grape variety has been long neglected, but the facts that it used to be one of the most important varieties in Dalmatia and that it gives excellent wines in Italy and California are sufficient proof of its great economic potential. That’s why in the last ten years Tribidrag has been increasingly cultivated in Croatia on a large acreage and getting economically important again.
Maletic Meredith Pejic Kastela CK vnyd 2002-08-31-28

Edi Maletić, Carole Meredith, Ivan Pejić


Jancis Robinson's logic in deciding that Tribidrag should be the prime name of the grape variety that also appears in almost identical forms as Zinfandel, Primitivo, Kratošija, Crljenak kaštelanski or Pribidrag is very simple. The “priority right” has won – the oldest name gets the title! While the first written reference to the name Primitivo dates from 1799 and to Zinfandel from 1837, the first reference to Tribidrag dates all the way back to the 15th century. Etymologically, the name Tribidrag comes from the Greek language and means "early ripening". The Italian name for this grape variety came from the Latin language (primativus) and means the same "the first to ripen". The etymological origin of the name Zinfandel has never been discovered and it is considered a mystery...

Željko Garmaz – Wine Stories