If you’ve heard of Zinfandel, then you are aware (perhaps unknowingly) of its twin, Primitivo.
Primitivo has been around for far longer but has gotten much less publicity than it’s fraternal counterpart, the Zin. Currently, the former resides in Puglia, Italy but it arrived there via Croatia somewhere in the 1700s. It went fairly unnoticed but in the early 19th century, Zinfandel showed up in America and made a splash. There’s a lot of disagreement about how the grape made its way to our shores but it was recently confirmed that they are the exact same varietal. While they may seem identical to the casual drinker, the trained palate can sense the differences.
The grape currently grown in Puglia, Italy is known formally as Primitivo and it’s a lovely red grape. They are full-bodied and tannic with earthy notes and fruit flavors like strawberry and blackberry. To see more about its twin, Zinfandel, see the video below:
Cline Family Cellars from New York Wine Events on Vimeo.
Primitivo grapes are grown in four main appellations. Primitivo di Manduria DOC is the most widely known and is the most commonly found. These are successful in iron-rich soils and tend to be more fruit forward.
Primitivo di Manduria Dolce Naturale DOCG is the classification for the sweet wines of the famous Manduria region. They are usually late harvest and get their delectable rich sweetness from the Appassimento process, where grapes are dried to maintain their sweetness.
Gioia del Colle DOC is more towards the southeastern end of the Puglia and feels a warmer climate. This results in a wine that is quite robust and on the higher end of tannic than the Mandurian Primitivo.
And finally there is Salento IGT, or Indicazione Geografica Tipica, which means the grape can be made into any wine from around Italy without the restraints of the DOC or DOCG. This Primitivo grape tends to be used in blends, particularly those that want to use more than 15% of another grape.
Although it has a bit of a dramatic history, Primitivo is a treasured grape. It’s deep red color and full-bodied nature makes it quite drinkable all year round, especially if you’re already a lover of Italian wines. The highly tannic quality lends a great accompaniment to feasts of meat and hearty vegetables, and will keep you quite warm in the winter.
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