With over 10,000 grape varieties known in the world, it likely isn't surprising if there are many you have never heard of before. To make it even more overwhelming, many grape varieties are known under a different name depending on where they come from.
One of these is a grape called Primitivo. Primitivo is a clone variation of a California grape we know as Zinfandel. For many years, we did not know where Zinfandel had come from, and in fact, its origins were only officially discovered in 2001. Genetic testing traced Primitivo to an area in Croatia, where the grape is referred to as Crljenak. Before these tests were confirmed, Zinfandel was thought to have come from Italy, where it is known as Primitivo.
Since its origins, Zinfandel has come a long way in both distance and discernibility. In fact, the clone variations of this varietal are so different, it would be difficult to say they were the same grape if you tried them side by side. In addition to clone variation, terroir is a factor in the distinguishable differences in this variety as well. This is why many wineries and websites tell you about the climate and the soil when they describe their wines. If the climate is hot and dry, a finished wine can be very ripe, rich and alcoholic (like wines in California). Cooler, wet and/or high elevation climates tend to make drier, more acidic wines.
Yet, although there are notable differences in these clones, they also have some similarities that we can all enjoy. For example, Zinfandel and Primitivo are both very versatile wines when it comes to pairing them with food. You can enjoy them with pasta, barbecue, braised meats and aged cheeses. Crljenak is usually medium bodied and also versatile, but tends to have a predominantly peppery characteristic to it, with less fruit notes as Zinfandel and Primitivo clones.
Primitivo, Zinfandel, Crljenak, whatever you decide to call it, one thing is for sure: there are so many varietals and variations of grapes out there that it can be a bit much, and most people decide not to bother with the tormenting details; but if you focus on one aspect of a grape, or any topic in wine for that matter, it sure can make for a fun conversation piece among wine-minded friends.