Outcomes of the “I am Tribidrag” conference


International wine industry and various stakeholders gathered on April 27-28, 2017 in Split on the topic of Tribidrag, a famous grapevine variety much better known as Zinfandel or Primitivo


The first international conference “I am Tribidrag” gathered industry professionals, researchers and winemakers to talk about the success of one of the oldest and the most international grape variety – Tribidrag also called Zinfandel in the USA, Primitivo in Italy, Kratošija in Montenegro, as well as Crljenak kaštelanski and Pribidrag in Croatia.  More than a hundred attendees had a chance to hear a state of the art in grape production and latest developments of the winemaking technology associated with this variety. In addition, they had an exclusive opportunity to taste twenty wines originating from different continents and countries, specially selected to explore “different faces” of the Tribidrag wine caused by different clones and terroirs around the world. The conference has also offered a good insight into other Croatian native varieties and their wines, history and tradition.



The opening ceremony


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



Carole Meredith receives the Order of Danica Hrvatska recognition

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 handed by the President’s delegate, prof.dr.dc. Maja Fredotović from the Faculty of Economics, University of Split.






Surprise of the opening ceremony


Legendary Croatian winemaker from California, Miljenko Grgić, was one of the first to notice the similarities between Zinfandel and Plavac mali, the wine he used to drink in his homeland of Croatia. After coming to Napa Valley 40 years ago, he heard a story of the grape variety that no one knew where it had come from and he immediately shared his suspicions with the researchers of the University of California, Davis. Forty years after Miljenko 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 in a touching video:



Session I

Story of Tribidrag (by Carole Meredith and Ivan Pejić)



Pedigree relationships of Zinfandel (syn. Tribidrag) and its relatives (source: Meredith & Pejić)

A document from the 17th century attesting Tribidrag as a highly-appreciated grape (source: A. Tudor)

Professor emerita Carole P. Meredith described how the search, popularly called the ZinQuest, was developing from 1997 and got its epilogue in 2002. An extensive overview of research steps and various results have been presented. Application of the latest DNA markers’ technology (of that time) has been elaborated in a rather popular way to demonstrate a solid genetic evidence of long time presence of Zinfandel on the Adriatic coast and islands. This was based on genetic pedigree relationships and detected numerous relatives which led to the conclusion that Zinfandel used to be widely spread on Dalmatian coast in Croatia for a long time. The final results have been confirmed in two independent labs, at the University of Zagreb and the University of California, Davis.



Professor Ivan Pejić has presented results that connected the name Tribidrag with the genotype of Zinfandel. The connection of contemporary Zinfandel and almost forgotten and extinct Tribidrag became possible after successful genotyping of a 90-years old herbarized Tribidrag leaf, originally collected and described by Croatian ampelographer Stjepan Bulić in his masterpiece “Dalmatian Ampelography” (1949). The leaf, along with other herbarium specimens, was preserved and kept in Natural History Musem in Split, Croatia. After the results of this molecular genetic analysis have been published (Malenica et al. 2011 in: Naturwissenschaften   98: 763-772) it has opened a gate for further research on historic relevance of Tribidrag. The extensive search of medieval documents done by historian Dr. Ambroz Tudor revealed several “key evidence documents” attesting Tribidrag presence on various locations along the east Adriatic coast, from Istria to Montenegro since the 15th century.



All this data and their interconnection with some biological traits encouraged authors Robinson, Harding and Vouillamoz to adopt Tribidrag as a prime name for this cultivar in their masterpiece “The Wine Grapes” (2012). This has made Tribidrag internationally recognized as the oldest known name for Zinfandel and Primitivo, moving its history back to the 15th century and making it one of the oldest known grape varieties.




Session II.

Zinfandel in the United States (by David Gates and Joel Peterson)


Two speakers invited from the USA, David Gates from Ridge Vineyards and «The Godfather of Zinfandel» Joel Peterson from Ravenswood winery, also the owner of one of the oldest Zinfandel vineyards in California, presented the success of Zinfandel in the United States. Through their slides they introduced a short history of Zinfandel in the USA. Despite many difficulties in its growing (since 1852) it is still one of the most planted grape varieties in California (more than 19.000 ha) and thus one of the most popular red wines.


Zinfandel grape is produced in different climate conditions, tehchnologies (rootstocks, space & trained systems…) and with other varieties. Wines are vinified in many styles. The speakers presented the most commonly used wine technology in California (grape-picking choices according to sugar level, with respect to uneven berries which appears often, grape soaking/crushing methods, fermentation and yeasts, wine maturation and barrels…).


In the wine tasting part of the session they presented five Californian Zinfandels (Michael David Earthquake Zinfandel 2014 from Lodi, Ravenswood Old Hill Ranch Zinfandel 2014 from Sonoma, Ridge Lyton Springs Zinfandel 2014 from Dry Creek, Carol Shelton Monga Zinfandel 2014 from Cucamonga and Turley Judge Bell Zinfandel 2014 from Amador), which represented all the above mentioned wine styles, and showed very high quality.




Session III.         

Primitivo in Italy (by Lisa Gilbee and Gaetano Morella)


Another country where Tribidrag is going through a revival process is Italy, where the variety is called Primitivo. Primitivo is the dominant grape variety in Manduria with noticeable progressive growth. Lisa Gilbee and Gaetano Morella held “Primitivo in Italy” presentation, where they showed history, spread and state of plantings of this variety, as well as climate conditions, soils, training systems and typical technology in vineyards. Primitivo was mentioned in Puglia in the 19th century under this name, but it has been grown earlier. It was a very suitable variety for the environment of Puglia, especially the region of Manduria (today it accounts for about 70% of vineyards).


Primitivo is protected under the DOC system (established in 1974) and the number of DOC producers is constantly increasing. Wine technology varies from traditional to contemporary, and different wine quality is produced – from bulk to top quality wines.

Participants of conference had the opportunity to taste five selected Primitivo wines (Pietraventosa Riserva Primitivo 2008, Felline Cuvee Anniversario Primitivo 2010, Morella La Signora Primitivo 2011, MilleUna Tretarante Primitivo 2010 and Chiaramonte Riserva Primitivo 2010).




Session IV.         

Tribidrag in Croatia (by Edi Maletić and Goran Zdunić)


Tribidrag and its comeback in Croatia was presented by Edi Maletić and Goran Zdunić. After general information about viticulture and winemaking in Croatia, they presented all activities regarding Tribidrag revitalization after the discovery. With high demand for plant material and a very small Croatian production first producers started to plant Primitivo imported from Italy and Zinfandel from USA. After ten years of intensive plantings there are now about 80 hectares under this variety. First wines appeared on the market in 2007 and today there are around 15 producers that sell their wines on the official market.


First Croatian Tribidrag clones have been certified in collaboration with FPS Davis and several experiments, comparison with US and Italian clones, have been undertaken.

The speakers presented first experiences with Tribidrag grape growing and winemaking, problems with diseases were determined as well as different maturation of grapes (uneven berries). Tribidrag requires a different approach in technology than the most widespread red variety, Plavac mali.

There are several styles of Tribidrag wines production, mainly matured reds and some rosè wines. Quality is mostly high and recognized among customers. And, as a conclusion after 15 years of Tribidrag production, it should have a significant place in Croatian viticulture.

Five selected red wines were offered for tasting (Crljenak Putalj 2014, Crljenak Kraljevski Vinogradi 2013, Crljenak Kairos 2013, Tribidrag Stina 2012 and Zlatan Crljenak 2011).



Session V.          

Zinfandel in the rest of the world (by José Vouillamoz and Jancis Robinson)


The conference “I am Tribidrag” gathered two authors of the cult wine book referred as the wine Bible, “Wine Grapes”, Jancis Robinson and José Vouillamoz. Together they have put up a panel about “Tribidrag in the rest of the world”, which was the closing panel of the conference.

Dr. Vouillamoz delivered a high-level introduction on grapevine variety development and selection, DNA profiling and DNA parentage analysis. Then he provided the latest research results and data relevant to Tribidrag. At present, it has the highest number of genetic relatives and the most documented history in nowadays Croatia, while it is most spread and economically relevant in the USA as Zinfandel and in Italy as Primitivo. Globally, Tribidrag is grown on 32,745 ha across 20 countries and all continents. In term of global acreages Tribidrag is in the 16th place among red varieties and a variety whose production increased in the period 2000 – 2010 (Anderson, 2013).

In the wine tasting part of the session Vouillamoz and Robinson presented wines from Chile, South Africa, Australia, India and Albania (Terra Mater Unusual Mighty Zinfandel 2010, Blaauwklippen Zinfandel 2013, Cape Mentelle Zinfandel 2015, Sula Vineyards Zinfandel 2016 and Kantina Skenderbeu Primitivo 2014)  to be tasted and analyzed.

“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 have all learned a lot at this conference. The only thing I can say at the end is – I am Tribidrag” Jancis Robinson summed up to close the conference.