On Monday, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed Senator Carole Midgen's bill that would have designated Zinfandel as the official 'historic wine of California'.

‘It would be a shame,’ the governor wrote, to effectively snub Cabernet and spite Chardonnay. [update ends]

A state legislature bill passed this month qualifying Zinfandel as California’s ‘historic wine’ looks set to become law.

Known as Primitivo in Italy with origins in Croatia, Zinfandel was brought to California in the mid 19 Century.

‘We recognize it for what it is, unique to California and with the oldest wines anywhere in the state,’ Carlos Machado, an assistant to Senator Carole Midgen who originally drafted the bill, told decanter.com. ‘Some may have opposed the bill because it is perceived to give preferential commercial advantage to Zinfandel, but what could be more Californian than that?’

California is ‘the only place in the world to find old vine Zinfandel, where a few growers in the Sierra Nevada Foothills continue a tradition that began in the Gold Rush,’ says the bill.

Some however, have reason to oppose the bill which now awaits the signature of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to become law.

The Napa Valley Grape Growers Association says that California should not limit itself to one flagship variety.

‘For Napa Valley, Cabernet is king. But we’re very proud of the Riesling on the hillsides and the Pinot down in Carneros. We wouldn’t be able to isolate one and just be proud of that,’ Jennifer Kopp, the association’s executive director, told The San Francisco Chronicle.

In addition to domestic opposition to the bill, Italians and Croatians also dispute the notion of Zinfandel being historically Californian.

Zinfandel ranks as the state’s third most popular wine, accounting for around 10% of all grapes grown for wine in California. The grape, said wine retailer Michael Sands of Washington DC-based importer Calvert Woodley, is very much an ‘American phenomenon’.

A decanter.com poll held earlier this year saw 73% of people vote in favour of Zinfandel becoming California’s official grape variety.

Written by Panos Kakaviatos