A Guide to Primitivo Wine: A Delicious and Affordable Option

primitivo wine

Tired of drinking the same old Pinot Noir, Chianti, or Cabernet Sauvignon? Looking for another delicious and affordable red wine? Look no further than Italian Primitivo wines, the Italian name for Zinfandel!

This Italian wine has shed its history as a cheap blending grape in mass-market wines, and it is now being produced into fantastic, high-quality varietal wines.

In this blog post, we will discuss everything you need to know about Primitivo wine, including its history, flavor profile, and food pairings. And we will also provide some of our favorite Primitivos for you to try!

So if you are ready to learn more about this delicious and versatile wine, keep reading!

Table of Contents

What is Primitivo?

primitivo wine croatian grape

Primitivo is a red wine grape that is native to the Puglia region of Southern Italy (“the heel” of Italy). And the grape is thought to have originated in the area now known as Croatia. Furthermore, the Latin term “primitivus,” which means “early ripening,” is what gave it its name. Because it was noticed that Primitivo grapes ripened before other grapes in the vineyards.

It is the 3rd-most planted grape in Puglia. Primitivo wines are big, bold and juicy, with jammy fruit flavors and medium tannins.

Also, the Primitivo grapes are characterized by its thick skin and high sugar content, which results in a high alcohol content (+16% ). Finally, the grape is very versatile, as it can be made into a light-bodied wine or a full-bodied wine, depending on the winemaking process.

Where is Primitivo Produced?

Italy Map Super Tuscans

The Primitivo grape is native to the Puglia region of Italy, which is located in the southern part of the country. Because the climate in Puglia is hot and dry, which is ideal for growing this thick-skinned grape.

Coming from Puglia, which isn’t as well-known as Piedmont or Tuscany, makes Primitivo wines more affordable than wines from other famous regions.

Though in recent years, Primitivo has become popular in other regions of Italy, as well as around the world. In the United States, Primitivo is known as Zinfandel wines, and it is grown mainly in California. 

What are the Primitivo Wine Regions?

And there are three (3) main wine regions of Primitivo in Puglia:

  1. Primitivo di Manduria: The most famous and high-quality Primitivo wines come from the town of Manduria in the Taranto province. This region’s warm climate produces rich, full-bodied Primitivo wines with a balanced tannin and hint of sweetness.
  2. Gioia del Colle: The 1st Primitivo wine region in Puglia. The higher elevation explains why Primitivo wines from the hills of Gioia del Colle are more fresh with higher acidity and elegance with lower alcohol.
  3. Salentino Peninsula: A hot, dry zone that covers the southernmost part of Puglia, there are many unique fermentation and vinification methods. Producing wines that are more fruit-forward and approachable.

What Does Primitivo Wine Taste Like?

Primitivo is a rich, bold, full-bodied wine with intense flavors. And you can find dark fruit flavors of blackberries, cherries, raspberries, along with notes of raisin, earth, licorice, leather, and cinnamon spice. Plus, if aged in oak you can find hint of sweet tobacco with a rustic finish.

The majority of Primitivo has about ~16% ABV, making it one of Italy’s red wines with the highest alcohol content. In comparison, a Montepulciano has an alcohol content of ~11-12%, while a Sangiovese normally clocks in at ~13%.

With the alcohol, medium tannins, and all the fruit and secondary flavors combined, the wine is both well balanced and concentrated.

What’s the Difference Between Primitivo and Zinfandel?

The Primitivo and Zinfandel grape are actually the same (genetically identical)! But the only difference is that California Zinfandel grape tends to be:

  • More fruit-forward with notes of spice and pepper
  • Higher in alcohol
  • Slightly sweeter

How Do You Pair Primitivo Wine?

Also, Primitivo is a versatile wine that can be paired with many types of food. Because the full body and bold flavors of the wine stand up well to hearty meat dishes like steak, lamb, pulled pork, and also eggplant parmesan. 

Is Primitivo dry or sweet?

The majority of Primitivos are dry red wine. However, Primitivo can be sweet dessert wines too, and they will be labeled “Primitivo di Manduria dolce naturale.”

Top 5 Primitivo Wines to Try (Our Recommendations)

  1. Masca del Tacco Lu Rappaio Primitivo di Manduria 2020 (My Favorite… Delicious, Smooth, Affordable)
  2. San Marzano 60 Sessantanni Old Vines Primitivo di Manduria (My Premium Favorite… If you like Premium Napa Cabs, you must try!)
  3. Conte di Campiano Primitivo di Manduria 2019
  4. Tormaresca Primitivo Salento Torcicoda
  5. Conte di Campiano Paolo e Carlo Primitivo di Manduria Riserva

Summary

Italian Primitivo wine is a delicious and affordable wine option that is perfect for any occasion. This full-bodied red wine has intense flavors of dark fruit, spice, and pepper. Primitivo pairs well with hearty meat dishes and can be enjoyed from anywhere in the world. Be sure to try one of our top recommendations next time you’re looking for a new wine to explore! Cheers!

Food Pairings

food and wine pairing

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