Tribidrag Tempest (a Zin by any other name . . . )

Here’s Jancis Robinson’s take on the Zinfandel situation in Croatia (and neighboring Montenegro). She and I both participated in the “I Am Tribidrag” conference in Croatia a couple of weeks ago.

(The article is also in the Financial Times but only for subscribers unless you google Financial Times Zinfandel and follow that link.)

The article focuses on the various names being used in Croatia. It doesn’t mention the silly situation in the US where the names Zinfandel and Primitivo are not permitted to be used interchangeably on US-produced wine.


Thanks for the link, Carole - interesting reading.

What is the rule? Can Primitivo be used as a varietal designation?

Thanks for the link, Carole. Interesting article.

There are quite a few California wines labeled as Primitivo, and some wineries produce a Zinfandel from one grape source and a Primitivo from a different one.

That’s what I thought. So what’s Carole referring to?

A varietally labeled wine produced in the US can carry only variety names that are on the approved TTB list. In the case of synonyms, such as Syrah/Shiraz or Petite Sirah/Durif, either name can be used on the label. But in the case of Primitivo and Zinfandel, those names are listed separately on the TTB list and the TTB does not accept them as synonyms.

So if a grower has vines that originated from Primitivo plant material imported to California from Italy in 1968 and 1987 and if that grower represents the fruit as Primitivo when selling it to a winery then the winery, by virtue of the paper trail, must label the wine made from that fruit as Primitivo and cannot label it as Zinfandel. Efforts to get Zinfandel and Primitivo approved as synonyms in the US have failed because of objections from large California Zinfandel producers. The presumed reason originally was that they didn’t want competition in the US market from low-priced Italian wines labeled as Zinfandel. But that argument no longer holds.

In Europe, varietal labeling is governed by the EU. On the official EU variety list, Primitivo and Zinfandel have been listed as synonyms since 1998, so a producer in southern Italy making wine from grapes known locally as Primitivo can label that wine as Zinfandel. Around 2006 (I think), the US and EU signed a trade agreement whereby each recognizes the other’s wine labeling regulations. A European wine label that is in compliance with EU wine labeling regulations is now acceptable in the US. So now, an Italian wine labeled as Zinfandel can be imported into the US and sold with that label.

As a consequence of all this, today the only producers who cannot legally use the Zinfandel name on wine made from grapes grown or purchased as Primitivo are the US producers.

Go figure.

And, Carole…what about Tribidrag?? Surely, but Shirley, you didn’t…gasp…pull the wool over the Fed’s eyes…did you??

No wool pulled, Tom. Our Tribidrag label was approved as a fanciful name, so it’s not considered a varietally labeled wine. That’s why we’re required to put “Red Wine” on the label in addition to the name Tribidrag.


Love the story, hate the bureaucracy.

Well, Carole…do the bureaucrats even know that Tribidrag is the name of a variety in other parts of the World?? Or do you not
want to ask that question?

Reminds me of…way back when…that HopKiln trademarked the name “Primitivo” for their old-vine Zinfandel…fully aware
that the Feds were clueless that Primitivo was a grape variety in Italy. Remember, the Feds didn’t have Google in those days.
That TradeMark was later rescinded for obvious reasons.

I don’t know, Tom. And I’m not about to ask.

Tribidrag may eventually be approved as a varietal name in the US, and at that point we’ll just switch to varietal labeling.


Yup, Carole…sometimes descretion is the better part of valor.

My impression was of the Jancis article that she was trying to create a bit of controversy over the origins/name where none existed.
It all seemed very collegial to me, from what I was reading.

Not entirely without controversy. There are 2 little Tribidrag tempests:

  1. The 5 people from Montenegro who attended the conference tried repeatedly (and will probably continue) to make a case for the variety (which they call Kratosija) having originated in their country, not Croatia. But there is no evidence at this time for a place of origin any more specific than the central Adriatic Coast of the Balkan Peninsula. Could be present-day Croatia, could be present-day Montenegro. (The organizers and speakers were heavily lobbied by the Montenegro contingent throughout the conference. After one coffee break, Jancis sat down next to me and said she’d “just been Montenegro-ed again”.)

  2. The producers in Kastela (just north of Split), where the first Zin vines in Croatia were found in 2001, want to use the local name Crljenak kastelanski for the grape and wine, to call attention to their locality. They also want to claim Kastela as the birthplace of Zinfandel. (And I now have a shirt proclaiming that, the same shirt as shown in the photo in Jancis’ article). But Zin producers elsewhere in Croatia (and their numbers are growing) prefer to use the name Tribidrag, which is both easier to pronounce and calls attention to the historical significance of the grape.

So not totally collegial.


Thanks for clarifying that, Carole. I trust no fisticuffs broke out. [snort.gif]

Sounds a lot like the Teran/Terrano controversy, where the Slovenes in the Kras/Carso/Karst want to limit the use of
that varietal name to only those grown in the Kras of Slovenia. The Friulians are upset. The Croatians don’t give
a rat’s a$$ since they’re not members of the EU.

Croatia, unfortunately, is a member of the EU.

Guess you’re right, Leo. When I was talking to SandiSkerk about the situation, he seemed to imply that the Croatians
were not concerned by the EU ruling. Maybe because they don’t sell much Teran outside Croatia??