Zinfandel has a soap-opera-worthy secret.

Genetic testing has revealed that Plavac Mali, an indigenous Croatian variety, is in fact Zinfandel’s long-lost offspring.

Native to the Dalmatian Coast region, the grape has all of Zinfandel’s plush fruit and food-friendly charms, but delivers them in a decidedly lighter frame. These ruggedly structured yet high-toned reds display a distinct maritime salinity, locally known as Friškina (“scent of the sea”).

Zinfandel’s brighter, more nimble Mediterranean cousin is bold enough for the barbecue, but also pair beautifully with fatty grilled fish, like bluefish or salmon--something their Californian cousins are generally too heavy to pull off.

Sourced from estate vines grown within throwing distance of the ocean, one of our recent favorites is the 2008 Miloš Plavac Mali ($25 for 750 ml). With palpable minerals, sage-like spice and subtle notes of black tea, it exhibits Plavac Mali’s exceptional versatility.

This is one family reunion that we’re happy to take part in.