Primitivo Wine – Primary Wine Growing Regions
The variety was imported to North America around 1825 by the Long Island nurseryman George Gibbs. His ‘Imperial Collection’ included all of the grape varieties known in Austria-Hungary at the time. The name Zinfandel likely came about due to a mix-up with the name Zierfandler, which is a white grape variety native to Austria and has nothing to do with the Primitivo/ Zinfandel.
Italian Primitivo wines come primarily from the Apulian wine growing regions Manduria and Puglia. One example is the popular Sessantanni Primitivo di Manduria from the DOC of the same name. Since the onset of the 1990s, Zinfandel cultivation has grown to an area of around 20 000 hectares. Zinfandel is an extremely popular wine grape variety in the USA, second only to the Cabernet Sauvignon.
Many Californian Zinfandels were originally considered low-priced mass products, however with selective crop reduction and the switch to traditional production methods, many wineries now produce international first-class wines. The Zinfandel is of no particular importance outside of Italy and the USA. Even hybrids or clones of this variety are practically unheard of.
The Optimum Terroir for Primitivo
The maritime climate in Apulia and along the Californian Pacific Coast is ideal for this variety. The vines thrive best in arid, well-drained soil and a warm but not hot, sunny location. Determining the optimal harvest time is a challenge for vintners as the grapes are very susceptible to botrytis cinerea (grey rot, noble rot). Because the grapes ripen unevenly, manual picking is generally unavoidable.
High quality Primitivo and Zinfandel wines often reach an alcohol content of 13 to 15 per cent by volume. They unfold complex and rich aromas. Spice notes with hints of black pepper, cloves or cinnamon but also slightly metallic blackberry tones are characteristic for these wines. They are often matured for a very long time, however they shouldn’t be cellared for more than four to eight years. The classic Primitivo/ Zinfandel is a bold, dry red wine, but rosés and blanc des noirs are also produced.