Primitivo: The Barolo of the South
By Samantha Shaw, Assistant Sommelier, Restaurant Latour
Recent DNA testing has shown Primitivo to possess the exact same genetic makeup as the popular California grape, Zinfandel. Oddly enough, both varieties’ origins are traced back to Croatia. And while the grapes may be identical in theory, the wines they produce have distinct differences. Whereas Zinfandel is one of the largest varieties produced in California, Primitivo is found most often in southern Italy where the grape is keen to the naturally warmer climate.
Primitivo’s home province is Apuglia (sometimes called Puglia), located in the “heel” of Italy’s boot, pictured below. Like Zinfandel, wines made from Primitivo have notes of plum and spice, but because of different growing soils and climate, the fruit character is less jammy and the structure more akin to old world wines, with rustic notes of earthy spice as well as tamed fruit flavors.
When Head Sommelier Susanne Lerescu and I tried this wine last week, we were both blown away – aged for almost 10 years, but still packed with dark red fruit, and still clearly maintaining its lively acidity, meaning this wine will only get better with age. (I would drink it now, if only it were acceptable to drink Primitivo at 11 a.m. on a Wednesday!) This is a food wine 100 percent; dark red meat would compliment this rustic red. Just imagine what’s consumed in Italy, and it would taste great with that. All of it. Over the years it has no doubt softened a little in body and texture, making it approachable to drink now.
This wine is bold, packed with a punch at every sip, and bursting in the mouth. It’s said that if a wine sipped makes you yearn for another sip, then it’s good. If that’s the case, the Majara is a great wine because it makes you want to finish the bottle (with some friends of course). You don’t even taste the heat, though 2007 was a very hot vintage. The way the grapes form, these vines require no trellising, which means they are grown right from the ground. However, there is a small canopy above them to shield the grapes from too much sun so they don’t over ripen. In fact, the 2007 was so warm that some of the grape skins were burnt, but Milleuna used that to their advantage, and it gives the wine a subtle sweetness right on the finish.
If you come across this wine, buy a couple of bottles, and don’t save them just for special occasions. This wine alone IS the special occasion.
* Join us Sunday, May 6th in the Napa Room at the Crystal Springs Clubhouse for a Wine Education Seminar and Cellar Tour from 2:30-4:30 p.m! The cost is $30 per person for the public and $25 per person for social members. Call 973-827-5996, ext. 3 to register!