Primitivo (Zinfandel) – Wine Grape, Tasting notes & Food Pairing

Primitivo is a dark-colored grape, and from this grape inky, tannic wines are prepared specifically Primitivo di Manduria and Dolce Naturale, which is its naturally sweet kind. Although the ancestral origin of this wine grape variety is still not confirmed, the present home of Primitivo is in southern Italy, especially in Puglia.

Primitivo is also famous as zinfandel. Primitivo wine grape variety is the third most cultivated kinds in Puglia, a city in Southern Italy. Primitive is a variety of grape that is used chiefly in preparing red wine. Primitivo red wines are enormous, jam-like, and earthy with maximum alcohol percentage with chewy tannins and a sweet feeling.

History of Primitivo wine grape

Primitivo was probably from Croatia, and it had been brought to southern Italy through the Adriatic Sea in the 18th century. In Croatia, Primitivo was called crljenak kastelanski or tribidrag, and an Italian monk named this grape Primitivo. Primitivo is a Latin word that means “early ripening.” The monk observed that this grape ripened faster than the other grapes on his ground. So, he named this grape variety as Primitivo.

In the 19th and 20th century the Primitivo grape was used as a blending agent that provided texture and alcohol to other red wine variants. But in the 1990s, the European Government has taken the initiative. It was for improving the quality of wine produced in the country. The government provided monetary help to those who cultivated grapes, particularly in southern Italy. The grape cultivators were satisfied with the venture and started to grow Primitivo grape. Before this initiative, this grape was rare for its cultivation needs hard work, but growers couldn’t earn much.

In the last part of the 20th century, UC Davis has performed a DNA test in California to ensure its identity. This analysis proved that Primitivo shares the same genes as the Californian zinfandel grape. In Italy, the grape cultivators could call their Primitivo wines zinfandel legally. It helped them to earn fame in the export industry. Primitivo wine grape cultivation had also grown up by nearly 50% from the 1990s when these grapes were challenging to grow.

Tasting notes of Primitivo wine grapes

Usually, full-bodied and medium tannic red wines are produced using Primitivo, and the liquor should be consumed within three to four years from its production. Some sweet dessert Primitivo wines are there, and they are called dolce naturale. In some cases, Primitivo is used with another type of southern Italian grapes, but after the confirmation of its connection with zinfandel, every wine variety with it gets famous. Grapes of old orchards are used to make higher-quality wines. Here are some Primitivo wine grape tasting notes:

  • The taste is fruit-based, with flavors of cherry, strawberry, blackberry, and raisins.
  • Earthy and rough-edged
  • The alcohol percentage is high
  • It can have sweet notes in taste sometimes
  • Moderate presence of tannins and other acids
  • Old Primitivo offers the tasting notes of preserves, dried fruit, prunes, old leather, and sweet pipe tobacco.

Top regions for Primitivo wine grapes production

Primitivo is found in the hot, dry Apulia area, geographically considered the heel of Italy’s shoe. The high produced Primitivo regions are:

  • The Manduria community of Apulia has been growing high standard Primitivo for decades. This area has a particular warm weather condition suitable for Primitivo vineyards. Wines made of these grapes have a minimum 14% of alcohol due to the production climate.
  • Gioia del Colle, near the town of Bari with higher altitude and limestone soils, also produced vast amounts of Primitivo variant. This region, Primitivo, contains higher acidity and lower alcohol than the Mandurian region.
  • Besides the two regions mentioned above, Primitive del Salento on the Salento peninsula produces Primitivo wine grapes.

Top wineries/wine for Primitivo

If you want to taste the top-level Primitivo wine but don’t have the idea about the best Primitivo winery, then you must try the three mentioned underneath:

  • Diecianni Primitivo 2017- Salento IGP can provide you a taste that is hard to get from any other Primitivo variety. Ripe black cherries, vanilla, and smoke are the dominant tasting notes of this wine. As this wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks, fruit is its essential fragrance. After fermentation, this wine spends three months in French oak to have a spicy note.
  • Carvin Organic Primitivo- Salento IGP is the award-winning brand of Primitivo wine that you must try. Mulberry, dark chocolate, pipe tobacco, and vanilla are the tasting notes you will receive while drinking.
  • Le Camarda Negroamaro & Primitivo 2016 comes third in the list. This wine is prepared from the grapes cultivated in the old gardens. As a result, this Primitivo wine has a rich and delicate fragrance. The dominating flavors for this wine are blackberry, chocolate, and juniper. It also remains in French oak for three months which intensifies the flavors.

Interesting facts about Primitivo wine grape variety

Here are some interesting facts about Primitivo:

  • Primitivo is a red grapes variant that is mainly cultivated in Puglia.
  • Currently, Primitivo vineyards contain 11,000 hectares of land in Puglia.
  • Primitivo is named due to its feature of fast ripening. All the phases of its growth, from blossoming to changing color, are closed.
  • Primitivo is one of the first grape kinds grown in Puglia, Italy.
  • An Italian monk gave Primitivo its present name according to its feature. This grape variety is known as Zagarese before being named as Primitivo.
  • This grape variety was reached in 1881 at Manduria.
  • The popularity of Primitivo has grown widely since 1920, and it started to spread to surrounding regions and boosted up the earning of the states.
  • Primitivo can transform its sugar concentration into alcohol.
  • It is fruit-forward
  • It contains a high alcohol level
  • It spends some time in French oak, which provides it an intense color, helps in tenderizing tannins, and enhances its taste and flavor.

Food pairing with Primitivo wine

Primitive wines are complete with fruit taste, and their earthy and rustic notes are perfect to combine with American, Italian, and Asian sweets, meats, and spicy foods. Here are some suggestions for Primitivo wine food pairing:

  • Braised mutton or lamb
  • Grilled steak with a glaze of balsamic
  • Eggplant parmesan
  • Salami
  • Ham
  • Red hot chilies
  • Indian chicken curry
  • Tomato pasta
  • Pizza
  • Lasagna
  • Hamburger
  • Turkey
  • Pork
  • Veal
  • Any acidic sauce like tomato sauce
  • Vegetables like mushrooms, onions
  • Barbequed meat and vegetables