Italy, as we know by now, is a land of diverse landscapes and cultures, boasting a wine heritage spanning centuries. Primitivo stands tall among its prized grape varieties as a testament to the country's viticultural prowess - and is one we want to explore further!
The history of Primitivo is one of exploration and migration. While it was long believed that Primitivo was an Italian native, DNA analysis later revealed its ancestral connection to the Croatian grape variety, Crljenak Kaštelanski, and the American Zinfandel grape. This genetic link uncovered the story of its migration from Dalmatia to Italy and beyond - the most cultured grapes, surely?!
The name "Primitivo" itself hints at the grape's early ripening nature, translating to "primitive" or "early" in Italian. The grape found a welcoming home in the Apulia region, particularly in the heel of Italy's boot-shaped peninsula. The warm Mediterranean climate and fertile soils create an ideal environment for Primitivo to flourish.
These days, Primitivo grapes thrive in the Puglia region, where they bask in the Mediterranean sun and are cooled by gentle coastal breezes. If only we could say the same for ourselves all summer! The vineyards' limestone-rich soils provide a distinct mineral character to the wines, and the thick skin of the grapes contributes to their ability to withstand the hot climate and dry conditions, resulting in concentrated flavours. In Puglia, Primitivo remains a source of pride for local winemakers.
Establishing DOC and DOCG appellations, such as Primitivo di Manduria and Gioia del Colle, highlights the grape's significance in the region. These designations ensure adherence to strict quality standards, preserving the integrity of Primitivo wines.
Harvesting typically occurs in late August to early September, reflecting the grape's early ripening trait. Primitivo wines can vary from fresh and fruity to complex and structured, with oak ageing adding layers of spice, vanilla, and depth. They have incredibly diverse and distinctive profiles, and in their youth, these wines exhibit vibrant red fruit flavours like cherry, raspberry, and plum. Primitivo wines develop deeper complexities as they mature, and they then showcase blackberry, fig, and even tobacco notes.
The Mediterranean influence is evident in Primitivo's profile, as the wines often carry a signature spiciness. This characteristic and the grape's inherent acidity contribute to its food-friendly nature. Pairing Primitivo with hearty Italian dishes like pasta with rich tomato sauces, roasted meats, and aged cheeses is a match made in gastronomic heaven - as if we need to be told!
Primitivo's journey from its Croatian roots to Italy's Puglia region has not been its final stop. In recent decades, the grape has caught the attention of wine enthusiasts worldwide. It made its way to California, where it gained prominence as Zinfandel, another beloved grape known for its bold and fruity wines.
Turley. Californian Zinfandel
Today, savouring a glass of Primitivo is an invitation to connect with centuries of winemaking tradition. The wine's vivid flavours, intricate aromas, and dynamic personality offer a glimpse into the diverse terroirs of Italy - and we now know it has an even broader history than that.
Below are some wineries and flagship wines to check out to dive deeper into the magical world of Primitivo:
Cantine San Marzano -This winery is renowned for producing high-quality Primitivo wines. This cooperative winery was founded in the early 1960s in San Marzano, Puglia. It has since gained recognition for producing a wide range of wines, strongly emphasising Primitivo. The region's ideal climate and soil conditions contribute to the production of intense, flavorful wines.
San Marzano. Primitivo di Manduria Riserva.
Tormaresca - Part of the prestigious Antinori family's portfolio, Tormaresca focuses on producing wines that reflect the distinct terroirs of Puglia. With estates in both the Castel del Monte and Salento regions, Tormaresca's Primitivo wines offer a unique perspective on the grape's expression.
Tomaresca. Torcicoda. Primitivo di Salento IGT
Varvaglione 1921 - Known for its dedication to Primitivo, this winery produces many expressions. Situated in Manduria, Puglia, Varvaglione 1921 is a family-owned winery with a rich history. Their commitment to Primitivo is evident in the diverse range of wines they produce from this grape. The region's clay-rich soil and Mediterranean climate contribute to the unique character of their wines.
Varvaglione 1921. Papale. Primitivo di Manduria
Masseria Surani - Located in the heart of Salento, Masseria Surani embraces the region's winemaking heritage. Their Primitivo wines benefit from combining local terroir and modern winemaking techniques, resulting in wines that balance tradition and innovation.
Surani. Primitivo di Manduria DOC
Cantine Lizzano - a cooperative winery in the Lizzano region of Puglia. The winery's commitment to quality and sustainability is reflected in their Primitivo wines, which capture the essence of the local terroir and climate.
Cantine Lizzano. Primitivo IGP di Salento
Cosimo Taurino - Known for pioneering Primitivo in Salice Salentino, this winery produces age-worthy wines. Cosimo Taurino played a pivotal role in bringing Primitivo to prominence in the Salice Salentino area of Puglia. The winery's Primitivo wines, often aged to perfection, offer a glimpse into the region's winemaking history and traditions.
Cosimo Taurino. Ceppo. Primitivo Salento IGP
As we raise our glass to Primitivo, we raise it to the resilience of a grape that has weathered changes and embraced new horizons. It is not just a beverage but a testament to the enduring legacy of wine culture.