Spotlight on Primitivo
Primitivo is one of three major grape varieties in Puglia in South East Italy. Characterized by low hills and wide plains, this are is the least mountainous region in Italy. Due to this vast flat expanse and the relatively fertile soils in the region, Puglia mainly produces mass market table wine and wine used for distillation and blending (a mere 2% of it’s wines reach the quality required of a DOC wine). Due to this though, Puglia is home to some of the great value wines in Italy.
Primitivo is, essentially, the first iteration of Zinfandel. For the longest time, the denizens of Southern California believed that Zinfandel was their own varietal, born and raised in California. Later on, genetic testing proved that Zinfandel was actually the identical twin to Primitivo. Combine the warm southern area of Italy with Primitivo and you have a fantastically juicy wine with ripe strawberry flavors, cherries, and cranberries. The truly amazing thing about Primitivo is that the bunches ripen unevenly. In other words, in one bunch of grapes you can have both under-ripe berries as well as overripe berries. This results in a wine with flavors ranging from tart cherries, figs, and blackberries all the way up to raisins, fruit leather, and dried blueberries. Not as jammy and intense as the Lodi Zinfandels we all know so well, Primitivo is the light bodied, lower priced, delicious alternative to California Zinfandels.
Due to their light bodied nature, Primitivos are best paired with foods like roast chicken, duck breast, chocolates, strawberries, and soft goat cheeses. Find this varietal at Georgetown in these wines:
Layer Cake Primitivo, IGT Puglia, Italy, 2012: $14.99
Cantele Primitivo, Italy, 2014: $10.77
Cantele Amativo, Italy, 2010: $29.99
Map courtesy of Wine Folly