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This grape variety got its name from Benedictine monks. They did not wish to imply that Primitivo was a simple grape, merely that it ripened early – based on the Latin word “primitivus”.

Primitivo and Zinfandel

The wine industry has known since 2001 at least that the Primitivo grape grown chiefly in Apulia in the far south of Italy is similar to California’s Zinfandel. The origins of this grape lie in Croatia, however, where it is called Tribidrag. Genetic analyses of Zinfandel and Primitivo have shown that the two varieties were at one time identical. Since they grow in completely different places however, they have evolved differently. That they are nonetheless still close relations is evident from the fact that some Italian winemakers market their Primitivo wines as Zinfandel. This is because the name Zinfandel is better known and so promises greater sales potential.
Zinfandels from California are more structured. The tannins are grippier, acidity is more pronounced, and the alcohol content is lower than in its European sister. They also have more intense aromas, while still possessing a typical sweet suppleness and distinct notes of plums and cassis. Prices are usually a bit lower than for Primitivo wines. One speciality wine is White Zinfandel which is usually bottled with noticeable residual sugar. This is a big hit at garden parties. Some winemakers even attempt single-vineyard Zinfandels to produce terroir-driven variants. One example is our East Bench Zinfandel from Ridge Vineyard, a real Zinfandel specialist from California.
Primitivo wines: what are their distinctive traits?
For many years Primitivo has been among Switzerland’s most popular wines. The grapes are usually picked when very ripe so that the must for fermentation contains as much sugar as possible. Primitivo wines are then often aged in barriques. This produces an opulent, dark-coloured powerhouse of a wine with a creamy texture and a high alcohol content – often 15% or more ABV, a very sweet fruit core and soft tannins. Recent Primitivo styles usually have some residual sugar. It is possible to make both white and red wines – and rosés – from Primitivo, but this grape variety is mostly used to produce luscious red wines. Wine made from Primitivo grapes has distinctive flavours of cinnamon, forest fruits and a hint of black pepper.
At Mondovino you can buy just the right Primitivo in every price category from inexpensive through to premium wines. We stock Sessantanni from Feudi di San Marzano, one of the most popular Primitivo wines in Switzerland. It is everything lovers of such opulent wines could desire.

Primitivo wines