Crljenak Kaštelanski: Kaštela Celebrates 20 Years Since Discovering Original Zinfandel

By 10 March 2021
Crljenak Kaštelanski: Kaštela Celebrates 20 Years Since Discovering Original Zinfandel

March 10, 2021 - Crljenak Kaštelanski, easier pronounced as 'Tribidrag', is the most famous indigenous Croatian wine globally. It is the original Zinfandel, after all. 

Slobodna Dalmacija writes that this year, the people of Kaštela will make a toast to their well-known Crljenak Kaštelanski lineage, as it has been two decades since this forgotten variety returned.

Namely, twenty years ago, Kaštela discovered that their crljenak was the ancestor of the world-famous and renowned American zinfandel. Thus, the hard-working locals rolled up their sleeves to return this well-deserved splendor to their vineyards.

Thus, friends and admirers of wine and wine products came together in the Crljenak Kaštelanski Association, donated 500 vines to the winegrowers, and so the story began. A story about vineyards, vines, wine, taverns, festivities, evenings of wine, jazz, chocolate, evenings of crljenak under the stars, pairing food and wine, fairs, cooking competitions, gastronomic and wine tours, and more. 

Numerous events were organized in honor of that lineage and, finally, quality wines. Wines that have been crowned with numerous awards, plaques, and recognitions.

But how to continue preserving the heritage of their ancestors, further develop the story, and deliver a complete destination product in today's experience industry?

Thanks to Jakša Bedalov, Srećko Radnić, and the young Ivan Perišin, the celebratory program "Year of the Crljenak" will be held in Kaštela, the ancient homeland of zinfandel.

"We go first to Kozjak, at over 400 meters above sea level, to see where our ancestors planted vineyards and where we plant Crljenak," said Jakša Bedalov. 

"Our ancestors built borders, dry stone walls, as anyone calls these walls that enclose fertile soil and keep the earth from rushing down the slope. Clearing the fertile land was a very demanding job. You have to throw out a stone, dig up the ground, then stack the stone at the bottom and fill the ground again, for at least 60 centimeters of good soil," he says proudly and explains how you can buy half of Slavonia for one hectare of this hard Dalmatian land.

"I started rebuilding the vineyards of my ancestors in 2007, and now I have more than 14,000 vines, all indigenous varieties: maraština, dobričić, plavac mali, crljenak... I have more than 7000 red vines, high up on Kozjak. At the foot of the mountain is 800 meters above sea level. We are going to climb up, and you will see the view of Kaštela Bay. The Americans who had been touring the vineyards for years did not believe me that the ancestor of their zinfandel was growing there. But when they tried crljenak, they realized all the beauty and benefits of our climate for the vine," Bedalov adds.

Srećko spoke about the projects and events that will mark the 20th birthday of Crljenak.

"Our vision is that the projects "Creative and cultural industries," "Creative street" and "Kaštelanski Crljenak" will be the initiators of the overall development of our space. Both economically and socially! We are guided by the idea of the joint action of stakeholders in cultural and creative industries, local producers, and tourism, which is the latest practice and the most effective form of action in areas focused on tourism. The best example comes from the famous Napa Valley in California," Srećko said.

"We are expecting to celebrate 20 years since discovering that Kaštela is the ancestral home of the world-famous and recognized zinfandel, and our crljenak is its direct ancestor. Last year we celebrated "Crljenak Day" for the first time, and this year we will celebrate "Crljenak Year," for which we have prepared a special program. I want to point out how we will shape the "Story of our hero - the crljenak who returned home." We will present the documentary "In Zinfandel's Homeland" and organize a fair."

And it will all start with the “Creative Spring” event, which will be held for the fourth time in the preseason, from May 1 to June 21, over seven weeks and seven themed parts.

"We have "Gastro Week," then "Crljenak Kaštelanski Week," then "Film Week" and "Music Week," and then "Flower Week." "Kaštela Roads" will follow - boat tours, wine carriages, and at the end "Week of creative and cultural industries," Radnić says, announcing the premiere of another event - "Kaštela Culture Olympics," i.e., "OK Kaštela," but also traditionally "World Cup in Cuttlefish and Broad Beans."

"We will spend all this in our "Creative Kaštelanski Crljenak Street," which stretches from Kaštilac in Kaštel Gomilica to the tower Nehaj in Kaštel Štafilić, streets and squares along the coast, where various cultural events will take place.

The vineyards and wineries are the platforms for all these events because the vine and wine are the drivers of this whole story of recognizability and visibility of Kaštela as a favorite tourist and wine destination.

"The activities that we will carry out during the celebratory year are numerous. In addition to the symposium on the topic of crljenak, the story of the hero, and the project of protecting or designating origin for wine or vineyards, and remembering winemakers along "Crljenak Kaštelanski Street," the plan is also to open the Crljenak museum, then the Crljenak kaštelanski fair, and the label Zinfriendly," said Srećko of the important jubilee, where the City of Kaštela, the Tourist Board of Kaštela, the Museum of the City of Kaštela, the City Library, but also Split-Dalmatia County will lend a hand.

"We are doing all this in our honor," points out 23-year-old Ivan Perišin, who is planting a new, fourth vineyard with his father Vlado, giving them a total of more than 8,000 vines.

"The plan is to plant 2,500 new vines by my birthday on April 19, and all the land is on the slopes of Kozjak, at some 400 meters above sea level," says the young winegrower, adding that the tavern where they keep their wine, on the Kambelovac waterfront, is as old as Hajduk, from 1911. 

"The inhabitants of these areas were fishermen and farmers. The vineyards are their work, and our goal is to preserve what they left us," adds Bedalov, whose tasting room and tavern are also on the Kambelovac waterfront.

Together, they are working for Crljenak Kaštelanski to be recognized around the world. 

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