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Italian wine and grape guide : Primitivo

Primitivo

The Primitivo red grape variety is grown from Abruzzo to Basilicata and from Sardinia to Campania, but it is in Puglia, Apulia, where it is widely grown and produces the best wines, in particular in the Manduria area.

Its origins are uncertain, but are believed to be of Dalmatian provenance, brought in Puglia by the ancient Illyrian people more than 2000 years ago in the Gioia del Colle area. Its name comes from the early ripening of the grape, the name Primitivo translates roughly as "early one", primi, primo, first.

In the early 19th Century, the variety was also introduced to the United States under the name of Zinfandel where it proved extremely successful, only to cause disappointment on both sides of the Atlantic when DNA analysis showed that Zinfandel and Primitivo were actually the same variety.

Primitivo has endured something of a rollercoaster in the past few decades. In the 1990s, because of its characteristics, Primitivo was mainly used in blends to add color, tannins and alcohol to less gifted grapes, but in the last decade, Primitivo has been enjoying a sort of renaissance and has become one of the Southern Italy’s most known grape and wine.

The Primitivo grape variety produces very intense dark ruby red wines with a spicy and fruity nose. On the palate is warm, soft, tannic with great structure and persistence and high alcohol content. In Manduria, a Primitivo wine often reach an ABV of 16%.

Producers growing the grape