Primitivo – a well-travelled grape
Primitivo di Manduria comes from the southern Italian region of Apulia
, which is not only one of Italy’s biggest wine-growing areas, with around 145,000 hectares under vine, but also Italy’s best-known producer of Primitivo
. The region, which enjoys an equable Mediterranean climate, produces powerful, concentrated red wines
from the grape, which are sold under the name Primitivo di Manduria.
Primitivo is not an indigenous Italian grape. It comes originally from Croatia
, where it is known as Crljenak Kaštelanski. At least as well known, however, is Zinfandel
– a close relative with the same ancestors. DNA analysis carried out in 2001 confirmed that winemakers must have taken Croatian vines to America and Italy and planted them there. Differences in climate and soil properties led to the two varieties evolving in rather different ways. Nevertheless, the similarities between Zinfandel and Primitivo wines are indisputable.
Primitivo di Manduria Dolce Naturale – Apulia’s first DOCG wine
Primitivo di Manduria is named after the town of Manduria, but the grapes are grown widely across Taranto and Brindisi provinces. Primitivo di Manduria has held DOC classification since 1974. DOC stands for “Denominazione di origine controllata” and is a controlled designation of origin for Italian wines. To obtain this classification, the grapes, growing areas and production process for the wine in question have to fulfil a range of criteria, and compliance is regularly monitored.
Primitivo is used to produce various types of wine, each of which is subject to different requirements:
- Primitivo di Manduria must have an alcohol content of at least 13.5% by volume, and 85% of the grapes used to produce it must be Primitivo. The remaining maximum of 15% must be red grape varieties that have no or very little aroma of their own and which may be officially grown in the region.
- Primitivo di Manduria Riserva must have an alcohol content of at least 14% by volume. It has a particularly long ageing period of at least two years, a minimum of nine months of which must be in an oak barrel. This gives it its characteristically velvety, full-bodied flavour.
- Primitivo can also be used to produce a sweet wine – Primitivo di Manduria Dolce Naturale. This wine must be made entirely from Primitivo grapes – must be a single varietal, in other words – and have an alcohol content of at least 16%. In contrast to conventional wine-making, the grapes are dried before they are vinified. This guarantees a residual sugar content of at least 50 grams per litre.
Primitivo di Manduria Dolce Naturale’s consistently high quality earned it the distinction of becoming the first Apulian wine to be awarded DOCG status in 2011. This abbreviation stands for “Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita”, the highest quality grade for Italian wines. It is only awarded to wines that have satisfied DOC classification criteria for at least five years.
What occasions should you buy Primitivo di Manduria for?
Primitivo di Manduria is a rich, voluptuous and complex wine. Even though it is made as a dry wine, it retains a certain residual sweetness, which, combined with spicy notes of cinnamon and pepper, give it its characteristic flavour. It is an excellent match for dark meat or aromatic and powerful cheeses. However, its fruity berry notes also make it a popular wine for drinking on its own, without a meal.
Primitivo di Manduria Dolce Naturale is also rich and complex, with a compelling sweet and full-bodied taste that makes it a perfect dessert wine.
Find out more about the various Primitivo wines at Mondovino and discover the variety of flavours expressed by this premium south Italian wine.