Wine Trivia Wednesday–What’s My Name?

It is time for trivia again this week, which was inspired a bit by last week’s quiz (as well as by Snoop Doggy Dogg, but no real need to get into that right now). Before we get to this week’s question, a quick review of last week’s quiz, which seemed rather straight forward:

True or False: Zinfandel and Primitivo are two names for the same exact grape variety.

Most alcoholics would answer this question rather quickly and definitively as ‘True’ without even the slightest of hesitation.  I was certainly in that camp before I made my trip to Washington during the holiday. There, while visiting one of the wineries, I was informed that one of the wines was a blend of many grapes, including Zinfandel and Primitivo. Since I did not want to look like a complete pedantic tool, instead of correcting her, I asked “Aren’t those one and the same?” To which she replied, “No, not exactly the same, they are different clones of the same variety.” I was a bit floored, so I did a little research.

"Although the DNA profiles for Zinfandel and Primitivo
appear to be identical, some clonal divergence seems to
have resulted over time, most likely attributable to the
lengthy period of independent development of the two
grapes in California and Italy, respectively. (DNA profiles
are excellent for distinguishing between grapevine varieties
but cannot be used to identify clones.).... Primitivo berries
are slighter smaller than Zinfandel; the size discrepancy
is noted if the two grapes are simultaneously viewed
together or if one measures the berries. Both Primitivo
and Zinfandel have tight clusters and thin skin, which favors
bunch rot with this genotype. However, Primitivo has
looser clusters than Zinfandel, and consequently less rot." 
(Foundation Plant Services, 2007)

"Genetically, these two grapes are extremely similar—it took 
some DNA fingerprinting to figure it out—but Primitivo and 
Zinfandel are actually both clones of a Croatian grape 
called Crljenak.... U.S. labeling laws don’t allow them to be 
used interchangeably..."
(Dr. Vinny on

I intended that the question stump you, so my answer was ‘False’ they are not the exact same grape variety–they are genetically the same, but different clones. Feel free to argue if you like, I might be sympathetic to your plight (I don’t think any of my former students would characterize me as a particularly harsh or unfair grader).

On to this week’s quiz:

As I stated above, this week’s quiz was somewhat inspired by last week’s ‘puzzler’ (a slight nod there to Wil Shortz and NPR). Like Zinfandel/Primitivo, there are many other instances of essentially the same grape being called different names in different regions. The most obvious, perhaps, is the Syrah/Shiraz example.

For today’s quiz, here are a list of several common varieties, you need to provide the less common name and the region associated with it.

  1. Mourvèdre
  2. Malbec
  3. Chenin Blanc
  4. Charbono

Good luck! Answers next week!


About the drunken cyclist

I have been an occasional cycling tour guide in Europe for the past 20 years, visiting most of the wine regions of France. Through this "job" I developed a love for wine and the stories that often accompany the pulling of a cork. I live in Houston with my lovely wife and two wonderful sons.
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24 Responses to Wine Trivia Wednesday–What’s My Name?

  1. vinoinlove says:

    My quiz question about Zinfandel and Primitivo seemed to have motivated you to do a research about it 😉

    On to your quiz:
    1. Mourvèdre – Mataró (Spain)
    2. Malbec – Pressac (Bordeaux)
    3. Chenin Blanc – Steen (South Africa)
    4. Charbono – Bonarda (Argentina)


    • Actually, I did the research just before your quiz came out–I was so excited to answer (to that and the other questions that I actually knew for once) that I responded too quickly and forgot to check my answers!


  2. 1) Monastrell – Produced around the world including California and Washington State
    2) Auxerrois – Cahors, France
    3) Gamet Blanc – Aveyron, France
    4) Corbeau – Savoie, France


  3. Primo and Zin are exactly the same in my interest to drink it. Which is right around none.


  4. talkavino says:

    Hmmm, so now you are getting into clones? but once you go into clones, where do you stop? if we take clones into account, then I’m sure that Malbec from Argentina is different from Cot from Cahors, and then Steen from South Africa is different from Chenin Blanc from Loire… to finishe the answer, Mourvedre is known as Monastrell in Spain and Mataro in Australia, and Charbono is known as Bonarda in Argentina…


    • I understand what you mean, really, but the genesis of the question was that in the US, at least, the two are treated as different, so I went with it….


      • talkavino says:

        I understand your point as well, but it is interesting fast all this clonal stuff is developing – I didn’t know that you can use both Zinfandel and Primitivo on the same label…


  5. Stefano says:

    I am sorry I missed your quiz last week – this is very interesting.
    Personally, I have to say I second The Food and Wine Hedonist’s remark above 🙂
    Having said that, I think the person at the winery was just trying to make their offering sound more appealing and… peculiar.
    According to Jancis Robinson’s Wine Grapes (what a wonderful book, incidentally), “the identity between Zinfandel and Primitivo was confirmed by DNA profiling in 1994 by Carole Meredith and her doctoral candidate John Bowers at Davis. As a consequence, in 1999 the European union granted Italian Primitvo producers the right to use the name Zinfandel. BATF [the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms] were unsuccessful in the complaint they filed in 2000 in response to this ruling. No agreement has been yet reached.” Robinson also indicates that “Tribidrag is the original and oldest Croatian name for this grape variety from central Dalmatia that is much better known today as Primitivo in Puglia and Zinfandel in California” thus confirming Dr Vinny’s remark (although in their write-up the guys at WS used a synonym for Tribidrag, Crljenak).
    So, I am going to stick to the alcoholic answer to the quiz: to me, yes they are just the same and I have a hard time getting excited at either of them 😉
    Thanks again for an interesting quiz!


    • You did not say it, but the inference clearly is there–the US might require both Zinfandel and Primitivo to be on the label so as to protect the ‘American’ grape. If the Italians can start calling their wine ‘Zinfandel’ it might somehow damage the US ‘brand’. The piece by the Foundation Plant Services indicates that there is indeed some physical differences (however slight) between the two….


  6. No idea, I just drink the stuff! 🙂
    Can you ask an easier question please?


  7. PSsquared says:

    Since I can’t answer the quiz, I will give you mad props for stopping yourself from looking like a pedantic tool. That’s not easy, when one is presented with that particular challenge. So well done, sir.


  8. Jeanette says:

    While I’m not a big Zin fan, I have to complement you on a terrific question with a fascinating answer. Who knew?! I mean, almost the same is not really the same as identical, is it?!


  9. aFrankAngle says:

    Without looking them up, I don’t know … but it is interesting looking at the answers above.

    Thanks for confirming my thoughts on zin and its relatives. Which reminds me of this great video commercial.


  10. gosh. i think i’m going to learn a lot from you. cheers!


  11. Interesting, but genetically the same, sounds like The same. I have found that some primitivos goes well with reindeer meat..


  12. Pingback: Weekly Wine Quiz #59: Grape Trivia – Zinfandel | Talk-A-Vino

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