This must be the definitive book about a very much appreciated American grape. Sullivan is an enthusiast about the Zinfandel variety and an assiduous burrower in historic documents but much of the book is rather dry and textbook like with many facts about plantings in various regions that I read without excitement.
The origins of Zinfandel were long a mystery: how the grape got to California, where it originated and exactly what it is – for it was obviously a European variety but there is none known as Zinfandel in the old world. Sullivan himself tracks down the probably journey of the grape to the West Coast and did a lot of research into disproving the myth that Zinfandel was brought to America by Agoston Haraszthy. Further more he thoroughly demolishes the myth, giving chapter and verse, of Haraszthy being the ‘father’ of American wine by being the first to bring European vines to America.
The book was published in 2003 and anyone with an interest in Zinfandel now knows about how, with the help of DNA testing, its origins were tracked down so this reader found no surprises in the penultimate chapter that tells this story
I was confused and irritated by Sullivan’s many references to Zinfandel as ‘claret’: at the beginning he says “we have a cellar full of claret, that is California Cabernet Sauvignon, red Bordeaux and Zinfandel” and I don’t know how Zinfandel gets on that list or what he means by a Zinfandel claret.
I read the Kindle eBook edition which I thought overpriced at £13 ($20). The formatting is poor, every ‘page’ has words with gaps in them – even the author's surname on the title page is displayed as S U LLIVAN, and there is a redundant index at the end pointing to non-existent page numbers showing how little care went into digitising the book.
All the same, the book is a useful reference for geeks who want the facts on Zinfandel.
eBook Production: **
Format: Kindle Edition
Zinfandel: A History of a Grape and its Wine by Charles L Sullivan
Print Length: 246 pages
Publisher: University of California Press(September 2, 2003)
DISCLOSURE: Peter F May purchased this book himself at full retail price.
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Peter F May is the author of Marilyn Merlot and the Naked Grape: Odd Wines from Around the World which features more than 100 wine labels and the stories behind them, and PINOTAGE: Behind the Legends of South Africa’s Own Wine which tells the story behind the Pinotage wine and grape, now available as a Kindle eBook.