Wine Talk

Snooth User: Muchkabouche

Preferred Primitivo

Posted by Muchkabouche, Oct 7, 2009.

It looks like there is a strong, devoted group that is totally engulfed with "zinfatuation". I am definitely one of those that likes a good, strong, bold, spicy Zin. This thread is narrowing in one particular related bottling, Primitivo, mostly out of Italy. What is your preferred Primitivo and why?

My least favorite is A-Mano 2007. It was all too much alcohol on the front end, like I was drinking straight from the white bottle in my medicine cabinet. Very hot on the taste buds, killing any of the nuances that were there. For as "in your face" it was with alcohol, it had a very short finish, with little lingering aromas or tastes on the palate. Acidic, yes. Some tannins. Not much in the way of aromas left in the glass or in the empty bottle, either. Just not what I enjoy from a wine. This was purchased from a merchant who knows how to merchandise and store wine, so I don't believe this was necessarily a bad bottle.

My current favorite is Layer Cake Primitivo. Full bodied, smooth on the palate, and very aromatic. Prominent anise, plum, and earthy flavors. Long finish, over 10 seconds. Good with food, very good all on it's own. This is one I really enjoy. Being able to linger with the wine for a good amount of time, all the while as it evolves and improves in the glass.

I am looking for three aspects in this post. What is your favorite? Least favorite? What Primitivo best represents the class? Perhaps A-Mano is what an Italian Primitvo should taste like. Any observations from the more experienced?


Reply by Wayno, Oct 7, 2009.

I pretty much agree with what you say about the A-Mano. As for your other question, I'll have to get back to you later. I have to go to work right now. Good topic.

Reply by Wayno, Oct 8, 2009.

I'm no expert on Primitivo but I have probably tried a half dozen Italians. The better ones are very different from the Cal zins. Less alcohol and fruit with sharper tannins and more spice. I personally prefer primitivos blended with negroamaro. The acidity is more balanced and the tannic structure is more complex. if you can find em try the primitivos from Accademia dei Racemi. Especially Sinfarosa.

Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Oct 8, 2009.

The idea that zinfandel and primitivo are identical is very interesting and immediately put to rest when you are able to try the two grapes grown in the same vineyard and vinified in the same way, not that this was the point of the question.

Wayno hits the nail on the head. Even in California the alcohol is lower and that spicy quality is more assertive than the more fruit driven Zinfadnel. In many ways primitivo reminds me of the more rustic Zins produced in the late 70's than any produced today.

My favorite happens to be the Felline Primitivo di Manduria, simply a ridiculous value!

Reply by Muchkabouche, Oct 8, 2009.

Thanks for the "101" lesson on Primitivo. The notion I have in my head of expecting the same of Primitivo as I do of a California Zin was from a discussion I had with a clerk at a wine shop.

Are there 2 or 3 Primitivos that you would suggest as an accurate representation of the grape and style? I will be looking for the ridiculous value mentioned previously. I need to taste some more and form a more educated opinion on the matter. Back to school is not a bad thing, especially when it comes to wine.

Reply by GregT, Oct 8, 2009.

But they are the same grape no? Whether they are or are not the same in the bottle has to do with the vinification and where they are grown, not with the grape.

Try some malbec from Bordeaux, Cahors, and Mendoza. Is it the same grape?? What about tempranillo grown in Australia, Argentina, Washington, California and Spain? What about nebbiolo grown in different places? Does it taste different? I hope so. Is it a different grape? No.

Zinfandel tastes different when grown in various places in Australia or CA. That's GREAT! The fact that it tastes different does NOT mean it's a different grape.

And because it has been genetically shown to be identical with primitivo, the EU has ruled that European producers can call the grape either zinfandel or primitivo, as they wish.

Here's an article from the NYT. And Dr. Meredith has discussed this before as well.

Reply by dmcker, Oct 9, 2009.

Nice to see that Grgich had it right about the match between Zin and the dalmation varietal all the time. He used to make some great wines--what happened to him/his wines over the years, anyway?

I thought I'd read ages ago that Agoston Haraszthy, that 19th century Hungarian soldier of fortune and Sonoma wine pioneer, had brought Zinfandel over? Nary a reference in that NYTimes piece...

Reply by GregT, Oct 9, 2009.

Nobody is certain how it got to CA but if memory serves, it was first sold as "zinfandel" in New York, so probably carried out there by people who had landed at Ellis Island. Haraszthy brought a number of grapes out there but it's also debatable exactly what those were because he wasn't above taking credit for things he had nothing to do with. He's kind of controversial so maybe that's why they didn't mention him. But re: Grgich - I think he retired sometime in the 90s and the wines really changed. Not sure if it was his retirement or not that was directly responsible because I don't know the sequence, but sometime around 1996 the style changed and also the alcohol levels of the cabs went up.

Reply by Purpleteeth, Oct 9, 2009.

Check out Feudo San Marzano SUD Primitivo, the 07 vintage is not bad. Pretty jammy and chewy, with a fair amount of spice. Also Cantele isn't bad for the money. A bit darker, and milder with more black fruit showing through. If you are ever down to try one that's not super cheap Rivera Triusco Primitivo is quite nice. A blend of several Primitivo clones from the same area, smooth as hell with a persistent finish and lovely red fruit.

Reply by Muchkabouche, Oct 9, 2009.

Purpleteeth -

Thanks for the recommendations. That's exactly what I was fishing for in this forum. As for your 1st listing, is that Feudi di San Marzano SUD Primitivo? The Rivera Triusco is on my shopping list for my next round of new wine tastings.

Reply by TL NJ, Oct 9, 2009.

The NYT article above is correct. BOTH California Zinfandel AND Italy's Primitivo are derived from the Croatian grape Mali Plavac.

Zin made its way to the US via Austria Hungary immigration in the 19th century (from NY to Cali during the Gold Rush), and Primitivo made its 200 mile journey from Dubrovonic to Pugila via the Adriatic sea during the high times of the Roman Empire.

Grgich started the Zin / MP debate because he noted the similarities between Zinfandel and his home-town Mali, and it was later proven to be correct. Upon his return to his home country back in the 90s after it regained its independence, he was a driving force to get Croatia's wine industry back on its feet again - its come a long way, and I believe before too long they will be producing some of the most sought-after wines in the world.

Anyway - all history and opinions aside - my point is - after hording the last of my bottles of MP since my visit there, I'm happily starting to see more stores carrying Croatian wines. For those of you that are both Zinfandel and Primitivo fans, I would strongly urge you seeking out Mali Plavac (notably Zlatan) and giving it a try, you wont be disappointed.

Reply by dmcker, Oct 10, 2009.

I thought that, according to the NYT article, anyway, it was the crljenak kastelanski grape that was zin. Didn't Meredith term the mali plavic 'son of zinfandel', a cross between crljenak and the dobricic varietal?

Reply by GregT, Oct 10, 2009.

Seems so. To quote the article:

"crljenak kastelanski, primitivo and zinfandel grapes were a perfect DNA match"

"Plavac mali turned out to be what Dr. Meredith calls ''a son of zinfandel,'' a cross between crljenak and the dobricic grape. "

Reply by Wayno, Oct 11, 2009.

Luckily, DNA is not the only factor involved in getting grapes into a kickass wine, and there seems to be no concrete consensus on what a kickass wine really is. Thank god for subjectivity. I have enjoyed the variety in several of it's incarnations and most were very pleasant and quaffable but none of them struck me as kickass. Not like my current favorite, Aglianico. Not all those are great and my partners in wine don't go nuts over aglianico that much either. Oh well, more for me.

On another slight thread drift I drank a Tormaresca Neprica tonight and found it pretty good for under ten bucks. Its NEgroamra 40%, PRImitivo 30%, CAbernet 30% from Puglia. Good fruit and nice acid balance with plenty of southern spice. The finish is a bit flat but not bad. A slight tartness in the mouth at first but it smoothes out fine.

Reply by neale1, Oct 12, 2009.

Guys we did a small tasting this weekend and showed the 07 A-Mano Primitivo - this was an instant hit - delicious!! Loads of berry fruit less spice than a zin, earthiness touch of vanilla complemented with pepper. Stunning !!

Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Oct 13, 2009.

They may be the same grape but they are not the same clone of Grape.

I've had Zin and Primitivo grown side by side in California and Microvinified by the winery specifically to illustrate the differences between the two. Everything about the wines was identical, same pruning, trellising, harvest dates, yeasts, ferment temps, times, etc. Primitivo came in at 1% alcohol lower and a noticeably different, spicier, less fruity flavor profile.

Reply by dmcker, Dec 9, 2009.

Looks like the Christmas specials are beginning to jam. Just saw an offer (from for the Puglian 2006 A-Mano Primitivo “Prima Mano”--at $7.99! This is their reserve wine, not the entry- or mid-level offering from their line. Can't imagine any downside from picking up a couple of cases at that price...

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